55 Water Street, New York, NY 10041
Last week when I was in New York, I visited The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza. I had no idea how powerful that morning would be.
While walking around the site, I was caught up in the solemn and respectful experience this 90,000 square foot plaza stands for. I was moved by what Mayor Koch and others were hoping to express in May 1985, on the tenth anniversary after the conclusion of the Vietnam era. A dedication and parade were planned to officially welcome home Vietnam Veterans. Veterans who had not, in my opinion, received a positive reception. At least that is not how I remember it. On this special day in 1985, across the Brooklyn Bridge, 30,000 veterans walked, some on crutches and in wheelchairs, to participate in this important event. Regardless of any negative political opinions associated with the Vietnam conflict, those service members deserved to be honored and recognized.
Although the plaza was monumental in its own right, by 1999 it needed attention. The “Friends of the Vietnam Veterans Plaza,” raised $7.1 million from both public and private sectors to refurbish the site.
After the 9/11 attack, this memorial was the first public space that was dedicated and reopened according to, “The Friends of the Vietnam Plaza” website. Many thoughtful additions now enhance the plaza. The “Walk of Honor” paves the way with twelve four and a half foot high granite plinths that list the 1,741 New York names and their ages that were killed in Vietnam, fifteen year old, Private First Class Dan Bullock, being the youngest. Ramps were added for handicap accessibility. Landscaping was also included in the renovation and on the October morning I visited it looked beautiful.
The glass block and granite Memorial Wall is described as either the North or South side. Actual letters, poems, and diary entries were asked to be submitted from veterans and their loved ones from all across America to design in their own words an authentic testament of their tour. Because of the overwhelming 3000 entries submitted to be selected and etched into the wall, the book, “Dear America: Letters home from Vietnam,” was created. This quote tops the glass block wall written by: Navy Lieutenant (J.G.) Richard Stranberg:
One thing worries me – will people believe me? Will they want to hear about it. or will they want to forget the whole thing even happened?
While sitting on the circular stone steps around the plaza, a man dressed in business attire held a briefcase in one hand, and placed his other on the glass wall and bowed his head. Several people were doing the same. I am thankful there is this public space for remembering those who answered their county’s call. To truly understand the message the memorial conveys, find out more from, “The Friends of the Vietnam Memorial Plaza.” Donations are welcomed to help maintain the integrity of this free space.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza, in my opinion, provides an experience that is deep and telling about a time in our American history.
12 plinths create the “Walk of Honor”