This city full of monuments will soon have another, thanks largely to Jan Scruggs.
Scruggs, 30, president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, yesterday announced a national design competition -- open to Americans 18 years and older -- for a memorial to his fellow veterans. And he named the eight judges who will pick the winning entry. The memorial will be built on a two-acre site just northeast of the Lincoln Memorial, in Constitution Gardens, between Constitution Avenue and the Reflecting Pool at the west end of the Mall.
Now the site is nothing more than a grassy mound surrounded by young trees. Jan Scruggs stood there shivering. "I hope they keep it simple," he said. Dead leaves whirled around him. "Maybe weeping willows and some benches. And, of course, the names."
Scruggs saw "The Deer Hunter" in April 1979. It was when he left the theater that he had "the flashback" -- and the idea of the monument was born.
"I found myself looking into the eyes of my dead buddies, remembering their names."
The competition program is relatively simple. Something contemplative, more quiet than exhortatory, seems required by the site. The monument must be nonpolitical in spirit. No matter what it looks like, its inscriptions shall include the names of the 57,661 Americans who died in the war.
Jan Scruggs is now an equal opportunities specialist in the Labor Department. He volunteered for Vietnam when he graduated from high school in Bowie, Md. "I wanted to be a medic so I wouldn't have to shoot anybody," he said."But you know what the Army is like." He was assigned to Company D, 4th Battalion, 12th Infantry, 199th Brigade. Half his company were casualties. In an ambush at Xuan Loc, Scruggs was wounded in both legs, the back and the right arm.
For a year, Scruggs knocked on doors seeking support for his project. Finally he knocked on that of Sen. Charles Mathias (R-Md.). All 100 senators would eventually co-sponsor the memorial bill that Mathias introduced.
The federal government will provide the land. Scruggs' Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has already raised some $500,000 of the $3.5 million needed for the monument. There is a $20 registration fee for those who wish to enter the design competition. The judges will be sculptors Richard H. Hunt, Constantino Nivola and James Rosati; architects Pietro Belluschi and Harry Weese (Weese designed the Metro here); landscape architects Garrett Eckbo and Hideo Sasaki; and Grady Clay, editor of Landscape Architecture magazine. The winner will receive $20,000; the second prize is $10,000, the third $5,000. As many as 15 $1,000 honorable mentions may also be awarded. Those wishing to enter should write to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Design Competition, 1730 M St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036.