In such a way that as you gradually walk downward toward the center point, the wall is ever growing taller until it almost doubles the height of the average human. I can see how her metaphor of slicing into the earth to express pain is relatable to every person. We all have felt the pain of some kind of loss in our lives and just like the earth at the memorial there may be a missing piece, but in time what’s around the missing piece begins to heal leaving behind a memory and maybe only a small physical indicator of what was lost.
The shadow the tombstone wall cast over a visitor as they make their way toward the center must weigh heavily on them, knowing the names engraved represent the loss of so many.
The way Maya Lin designed a memorial to those who died serving their country is as calming, peaceful, and beautiful as it is bold and simplistic.
In all its beauty and interest, it is presented in such a way that the piece doesn’t take away from the purpose and meaning of the memorial. I’m so impressed in the maturity of her young age when she designed the Vietnam War Memorial and how much reverence and respect she had for those who sacrificed for our country. Maya Lin’s design is as an eloquent place were the simple setting of earth and sky and remembered names of our deceased veterans come together. One of things I found fascinating was the fact that it was apolitical, except for the one American flag displayed, indicating that this was not a moment of pride for America.
Perhaps it shows that this war had little to do with the ideals of the USA, like liberty, democracy, and national sovereignty.
This makes the memorial in some ways unpatriotic and non-heroic, which is was attacked fiercely for. Even the men in the “Three Servicemen” statue don’t look like heroes of democracy; they are tired, worn-out, and look weakened. In the end, it seems to create a memory of national humiliation, but, when considering the context of the Vietnam War, it isn’t that shocking. The Vietnam War was undermined by student protests, draft dodging’s, and press reports that the US was losing and scandals like the Pentagon Papers. Many aspects of the “Vietnam Veterans Memorial” create a narrative.
The biggest aspect is the choice of black granite, a color which is indicative of shame, sorrow, and even degrading. That helps create a sense of sadness revolving around the names on the memorial. A sense of sorrow at their sacrifice, perhaps even a sense of shame that they had to die in the way they did in the first place. The fact that it is below ground also creates a strange narrative. It does not stand out, quite literally among the Constitutional Gardens, almost as if is hidden. Perhaps this shows that America does not wish for this part of its history to stand out. On another level, it can be reminiscent of the men who are buried underground in caskets, forever creating a funerary narrative around the monument. Look from above though, and a whole new point-of-view appears.
While from the ground it may look like an open book that we can learn from, creating a third-person, almost reflect point-of-view, from above it looks like a wound that is slowly, but surely healing. In comparison with other monuments, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is vastly different. A point of comparison could be the Marine Corps War Memorial, otherwise known as the Iwo Jima monument. This monument is a sculpture of three soldiers risking their lives to keep the American flag flying. The structure has a deep sense of understood patriotism and there is a great deal of honor that is also associated with it. Unlike the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Iwo Jima monument is a tribute only to the Marines who served in World War Two. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial has no such message of honor and courage, but rather an atmosphere that causes visitors to reflect on the conflict
The only monument that is similar the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the memorial to Ulysses S. Grant. It is located at the foot of the capital and has no clear cut meaning. There is no political message that can be taken away from Grant¹s memorial. It neither glorifies war nor possesses an antiwar message, and there is no moral lesson that can be taken away from this monument. One of the great things about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is that it allows the public to form its own opinion of the conflict without forcing a political message. It is because of this ambiguity that the monument is so unique. Unlike other monuments, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial cannot be seen from a distance. One must commit to see it, and then walk down to it.
This is just the opposite of other monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial which were created to show the men on a higher God-like platform. Also, it is not at all uncommon to find men and women alike weeping at the base of the monument. Cynics might argue and say they morn only for their loved ones, and were not moved by the power of the monument, but this is not always the case. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is an experience that affects thousands of people daily, and changes the lives of almost as many. This is a characteristic that no other war monument in the country seems to possess.