We proceeded to the Lincoln Memorial and read Lincoln’s speeches engraved on the walls of the monument. We left the Lincoln Memorial to find the Vietnam memorial and Loren’s cousin’s name on the wall. We found his name, and I wished I had a flower to leave. We thought the Vietnam memorial was very somber, but thought it appropriate to the time and situation.
Part of what struck us was reading Lincoln’s words about consecrating part of a battlefield as a cemetery. He emphasized the role of the soldiers when he said, “those brave men living and dead…” Lincoln, like the Vietnam memorial, stressed the role of the individuals who were engaged in the actual fighting of the war. Perhaps if we had not encountered the two memorials on the same walk we would not have noticed the similarities.
I didn’t take time to look for the names of my friends and classmates on the wall of the Vietnam Memorial. They are there. Their names add to the message that in war real individuals lose their lives. Now, others might see things differently, but the memorial that honors the individuals who died impressed both Loren and me. Also, we found the Vietnam Memorial off to one side of the mall, nestled under the trees. I’m thankful our cousin and my friends have a peaceful place for their monument.
I mentioned we encountered the WWII memorial. It had a very different feel. It is large and impressive with it’s fountain and flags. It struck us as a monument not to those who died in the conflict but as a monument to the war itself—almost a celebration of the war. It’s position of prominence between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial speaks of its importance as compared to Vietnam.
When I think of Lincoln’s words and the somber simplicity of the Vietnam Memorial I am inclined to call the WWII memorial vulgar. What were people thinking to place this monument with its colorful flags and joyful fountain so prominently? I certainly knew many people who fought in WWII. At the time, at least half of the male members of my family served in that war. My uncle was in Pearl Harbor when it was bombed. I have to ask, “In what way does the WWII memorial honor the service of my family?” I don’t get it. In my opinion something simple off to the side of the mall that honored the common men and women who defended our country would be more fitting.
Considering the global carnage of WWII, something that remembered the common people would have been much more pleasing to me. Instead we celebrate a victory for us while forgetting our allies and the many victims of the conflict. The monument fails to communicate the true horror of that war.
I have to conclude that the placement of the two war monuments speaks volumes about our attitude toward war and to the individuals who served in those wars.