Walking northeast from the Lincoln Memorial we came to the Vietnam Memorial. 

Everyone is familiar with the two intersecting granite walls with the thousands of names inscribed in them. But when young 21-year-old Maya Ying Ling's design was first unveiled, it was very controversial. Many veterans felt the design wasn't an appropriate memorial for their fallen brothers...too abstract, too cold like a tombstone.

The following year it was decided that a traditional, figurative sculpture would be erected as part of the memorial. Two years after the wall memorial was dedicated, The Three Soldiers sculpture was unveiled.

Washington D.C. sculptor, Frederick Hart, who was the third place finisher in the original Vietnam Veterans memorial design competition, was asked to design this sculpture.

Based on the clothing and weapons on the figures, it is likely the middle soldier is a Marine and the two other figures represent Army soldiers. The sculptor said his goal was to create a moving evocation of the experience and service of the Vietnam veteran. He described it: "They wear it on their uniform and carry the equipment of war; they are young. The contrast between the innocence of their youth and the weapons of war underscores the poignancy of their sacrifice. There is about them the physical contact and senses of unity that bespeaks the bonds of love and sacrifice that is the nature of men at war...Their strength and their vulnerability are both evident."

But note how the sculpture is placed away from the wall memorial which you can see in the background above. Originally the sculpture was to stand next to the wall to appease those who were critical of the wall design. However, Maya Ying Ling was very critical of this decision, arguing the sculpture would be the focal point, not the wall. It was ultimately decided The Three Soldiers sculpture would be displayed some distance away. However, it could be said the soldiers were placed here in order to look on in solemn tribute to the names of their fallen comrades. 

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is open 24 hours a day. Rangers and volunteers are available throughout the day and into the evening to assist visitors. The visitor contact station is between the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Lincoln Memorial.

Like the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is not located in an area close to a Metro stop. Another reason to try the Capital Bikeshare which has stations right across from the Lincoln Memorial and at 21st Street and Constitution Avenue which is close walking distance from the memorial.

All photos in this blog post were taken by my husband and me during our visit in September, 2013.

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