The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the national memorial in Washington, DC. It honors U.S. service members of the U.S. armed forces who fought in the Vietnam War, service members who died in service in Vietnam/South East Asia, and those service members who were unaccounted for (Missing In Action) during the War.
Its construction and related issues have been the source of controversies, some of which have resulted in additions to the memorial complex. The memorial currently consists of three separate parts: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, completed first and the best-known part of the memorial; the Three Servicemen Memorial, and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.
The main part of the memorial, which was completed in 1982, is in Constitution Gardens adjacent to the National Mall, just northeast of the Lincoln Memorial. The memorial is maintained by the U.S. National Park Service, and receives around 3 million visitors each year. The Memorial Wall was designed by American architect Maya Lin. In 2007, it was ranked tenth on the “List of America’s Favorite Architecture” by the American Institute of Architects.
On the walls are the names of servicemen classified as KIA (Killed in Action), or MIA (Missing in Action) when the walls were constructed. The names are inscribed in Optima typeface. Information about rank, unit, and decorations is not given.
Visitors to the Wall will take a piece of paper and place it over a name on the wall and rub wax crayon or graphite pencil over it as a memento of their loved ones. This is called “rubbing”.
Visitors to the memorial began leaving sentimental items at the memorial at its opening. One story claims that this practice began during construction, when a Vietnam veteran threw the Purple Heart his brother received posthumously into the concrete of the memorial’s foundation
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