While the Vietnam Wall is probably the most recognized part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, “The Three Soldiers” tells a story of its own.
Dedicated in 1984, the sculpture, also known as “The Three Servicemen” was made by Frederick Hart and added two years following the opening of the Wall in 1982. The addition of the statue was one reason the Wall was permitted to be built in the first place.
Here are some facts about it and its history.
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1. The three soldiers represent the diversity of the U.S. military.
The three men represent caucasian, African American, and Latino soldiers, and the branch under which they serve is intentionally unspecified to represent all those who have served in Vietnam, according to Histories of the National Mall
A 21-year-old marine in Washington, D.C. in 1983 modeled for the lead soldier while a Cuban American inspired the soldier with the machine gun on his shoulder, and the African American individual is a composite of several young men.
2. It was not part of the original design of the memorial.
Yale architect student Maya Lin designed the Wall, but the “V” shape and gray color reminded some of a grave and shame, lacking the emotion of patriotism and heroism displayed by the fighters, according to D.C. Memorials
. The addition of a flag and the statue was suggested to reconcile the disagreement in the chosen design.
3. The designer of the Wall protested the additions.
Lin did not like the additions, believing it was an infringement of her artistic expression and that the sculpture would “make one feel watched,” she said to The Washington Post in 1982, according to Lehigh University’s The Vietnam Wall Controversy
. This disagreement led to the statue being placed in a disconnected setting, but the soldiers look in the direction of the Wall.
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4. It is not the only sculpture at the Vietnam Memorial.
While the Wall focuses on those who died, the war and “The Three Soldiers” pays tribute to those who returned, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial honors the female nurses who cared for the wounded overseas during the war. This statue depicts three nurses hovering over a wounded soldier.
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