The construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial caused much controversy from its inception as people shared their thoughts and opinions on its constructions and alterations made along the way.
Disagreements over location and the addition of a flag and statue depicting three servicemen caused conflict in a project to honor the lives of the polemic war’s heroes.
Here are eight quotes about the controversial memorial.
“The feeling of total anonymity strikes the Vietnam veteran right down to the neighborhood level. ‘On my block,’ says one such veteran, 'nobody knows that I went away, much less that I got back alive.’”
– William Barry Furlon said in New York Times Magazine in 1967, via Lehigh University’s The Vietnam Wall Controversy
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“No efforts can provide compensation, of course, to the Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. For them, perhaps, a national monument is in order to remind an ungrateful nation of what it has done to its sons.”
– Jan Scrugg, said in The Washington Post in 1977, when he first suggested a monument, via Carnegie Mellon University
“It is now up to Congress to bring a long-deserved dignity to those who answered the call, at great personal cost. It is their turn to gather on the mall, Mr. Speaker, and when I notice that the portion of this memorial will contain the names of every man who died in Vietnam, I cannot think of a more appropriate group to be permanently enshrined there.”
– Congressman John Hammerschmidt in his introduction of legislation for the memorial in 1979, via The Vietnam Wall Controversy
“In honoring those who answered the call of duty, we do not honor war. But we honor the peace they sought, the freedoms that they fought to preserve, and the hope that they held out to a world that's still struggling to learn how to settle differences among people and among nations without resorting to violence.”
– President Jimmy Carter upon signing legislation to permit the building of the memorial in 1980, via Lehigh University
“Brought to a sharp awareness of such a loss, it is up to each individual to resolve or come to terms with this loss. For death is in the end a personal and private matter and the area contained within this memorial is a quiet place, meant for personal reflection and private reckoning.”
– Maya Lin in her essay submitted with her design suggestion for the memorial in 1981, via Lehigh University
“This memorial, more than anything else, is an open grave for the collective conscience of a guilty nation. The dead should certainly be memorialized, but to again ignore those who still live makes this open grave an open wound as well.”
– Letter to the editor, Washington Star, after the release of the design in 1981, via The Vietnam Wall Controversy
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“The monument starts like the war itself, small and unseen. It grows larger, as the war did, by degrees, until it is higher than a man's head, and then, also like the war, it slowly fades until it is gone. It has almost no beginning and no end. The war was like that.”
– Richard Cohen quoted in The Washington Post after the dedication in 1982, via The Vietnam Wall Controversy
“The statue was designed for the nurses who cared for the sick and wounded in Vietnam: to give them recognition for their long hard hours of work and sacrifice for the patients they nursed during that war; to help them feel important about their contributions to society and history; to pay tribute to them as veterans; and to raise public awareness of the fact that women served in Vietnam.”
– Donna-Marie Boulay and Diane Carlson Evans announcing the women’s memorial in 1984, via The Vietnam Wall Controversy
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