Why the Vietnam Wall Founder Visits Every Week


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Jan C. Scruggs (L), chairman of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund, and project director Bob Doubek (R) present the final design for the memorial, which will be built near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. With them is Maya Ying Lin, the Yale architecture student who submitted the winning design.

Design and controversy

They organized one of the largest architectural design competitions in history, which included a jury of architects, sculptors and other design professionals. Out of more than 1,400 submissions, they had to decide which one best exemplified a thoughtful, contemplative memorial featuring the names of the dead.

“We had to find a way to sell the idea that we separate the war from the warrior. This design is not about the Vietnam War,” Scruggs said. “It’s about the bravery of American soldiers who went out there and did their job as their country asked them to do.”

The winning design ended up being that of Maya Lin, a 21-year-old student of Chinese ancestry.

Scruggs acknowledges that Lin’s legacy has certainly been controversial, but he thinks what really angered people was that the memorial didn’t seem patriotic enough or evoke emotions like that of Iwo Jima and other war memorials.

“Maya Lin’s ancestry, to some veterans, seemed inappropriate,” he said. “I was always talking to people at the memorial [and told them] she’s from Athens, Ohio. His parents were both English teachers. And she said when I met her, ‘I’m as Chinese as apple pie.’

Others who were reluctant to design the memorial called it “the black notch of shame and grief”, unlike the other mall monuments, which were all white.

However, Scruggs said he thought Lin’s plans were “very different. It has this glittering granite. You can look there and see your face. And the genius of this thing is that the names have been placed in chronological order. So the guys who were killed the day I was in a battle in Vietnam, their names are right next to it, in perpetuity.

Lin’s black granite selection had an added benefit. In older monuments and cemeteries that used traditional stone, he said, names can often become difficult to read over time as the stone weathers. But the granite used at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial should look the same hundreds of years from now as it did when it was built.

An unconventional remedy for PTSD

Scruggs said that as soon as the monument was unveiled in 1982, he had no interest in smoking marijuana to relieve his PTSD. The new memorial is what centered it.

For today’s military who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan struggling with PTSD, he recommends finding what centers them personally.

“The average person can accomplish a lot in this country. I see it all the time – people volunteer at dog shelters, churches, everything in between. People are doing a lot of good things and we want to encourage that kind of behavior,” he said.

Eventually, after raising millions of dollars in private donations, Scruggs was able to secure $3 million from Congress to provide ongoing upkeep of the grounds, which he says has kept the memorial in incredible condition as he continues to visit it every year. the week.

“A lot of times people bring teddy bears to the wall from Vietnam, they attach someone’s story to it – a letter, a photo, a pair of army boots,” he said. “And for me, it’s so wonderful to know that my buddies and everyone who was killed on the American side got what they deserved, a national monument. It was certainly all I could do for them.

Aaron Kassraie writes about issues important to military veterans and their families for AARP. He is also a general assignment reporter. Kassraie previously covered U.S. foreign policy as a Washington bureau correspondent for the Kuwait News Agency and worked in news gathering for USA today and Al Jazeera English.


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