WASHINGTON, D.C. – The year 2022 marks 50 years since U.S. officials began preparing to withdraw from the Vietnam War. Now, in the nation’s capital, the group who preserves the Vietnam Memorial is planning for a busy year ahead.
2022 will also mark the 40th anniversary since the construction of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. Its biggest feature: the wall, etched with more than 58,000 names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“As we say, it’s about the warrior and not about the war,” said Heidi Zimmerman, Vice President of Programs and Communications for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. “It doesn’t matter what your feelings are about the war, you should honor the warriors.”
Heidi Zimmerman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund showed us around the memorial, which is more than just the wall. You’ll also find the Three Servicemen Statue, the Women’s Memorial, and the In Memory Memorial Plaque honoring everyone who joined the effort a half-century ago. The wall takes visitors below ground-level… immersing them into a sea of names covering two decades of conflict.
The names on the wall are by date of casualty. It starts in the center and it comes out this way on the East wall. Within each day, the names are in alphabetical order. It’s not unusual for visitors to come along and they think it’s in (alphabetical) order and then, all of the sudden a new day starts.
“The meaning of having them all in casualty date is because there are numerous Michael Smith’s and people with the same name,” Zimmerman said, giving an example. “So, you wouldn’t really know which person is yours. By doing it this way, you know exactly which person is yours because you know what date that they passed.”
Visitors to the wall this Friday will also be able to honor those captured or missing in war for the annual National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
With tourism picking up again in Washington in 2021, many people are visiting the Wall and the Memorial for the first time. For veterans and their families, this can prove to be healing.
“They feel like this is the place that they’re closest to their dad or their brother or their grandfather,” she said. “So, they come here to visit them.”