Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in
The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Though Maya Lin's stark design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was initially controversial -- one critic called it a "black gash" in the ground -- her work has become one of the most popular monuments on the Mall. A bronze sculpture of three servicemen was added to the site in 1984, and another of three servicewomen in 1993. An excerpt from The Post of Nov. 14, 1982:
By Phil McCombs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thousands of Vietnam veterans from across America marched in a grand parade down Washington's Constitution Avenue yesterday, then gathered in a vast throng on the Mall to dedicate the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial, on whose polished granite walls are etched the names of their 57,939 dead and missing comrades-in-arms.
It was a day of flags and tears and stirring music, of marching Green Berets in jungle fatigues and Gold Star Mothers in cream-colored capes. There were military color guards and high school bands playing "The Girl I Left Behind Me" and "God Bless America"; and, at noon, from an overflight of military aircraft, the roar of jet warplanes and the haunting thud of rotor blades.
"All of us can now say we are proud to be Vietnam veterans ... and I know that our country appreciates our service," Jan C. Scruggs said at the dedication ceremony. Scruggs is the wounded former specialist 4 whose dream it was to build the memorial and who headed the group that did so. "Today we see this dream is a reality. ... Let it begin the healing process and forever stand as a symbol of our national unity."
Some 150,000 attended the parade and dedication despite gusty winds and temperatures in the 40s, according to a National Park Service estimate. The day's events capped a week of activities in what Scruggs and his group planned as a long-overdue "National Salute to Vietnam Veterans." Fifteen thousand veterans, many in faded uniforms, marched in the parade in ranks arranged by states and territories.
The parade's theme was "Marching Along Together Again." While there were tears at some of the music and memories, there were also cheers and applause from a crowd along the parade route that seemed to surge with patriotism. They waved small American flags, and many brought their children, bundled tightly against the wind.
Many spectators said they had no direct involvement in the Vietnam War but came to pay tribute to those who fought an unpopular war. "I felt like I owe it to the people who served," said Jim Peebles, a 26-year-old graduate student at George Washington University. "I was one of those who was not too appreciative. ... I'm sure I contributed to the national disavowal. My being here is saying, `I'm sorry for the way America was.' " ...
John Wheeler, a Vietnam veteran and chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, said the memorial is another gift to America from those who died in the war. "America affirms the integrity of her fighting forces without apology or stain," said Wheeler. "The veterans who returned from Vietnam have much to offer our country in all walks of life."
This series is now in a book that can be purchased online at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/2000/collectors.htm