Thousands of people pressed along the black marble walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial yesterday, a monument that has attracted more than a million visitors since it opened six months ago, making it the third-most-visited site in the nation's capital during that time.
Ted Muise, a member of the Veterans Vigil Society that maintains a 24-hour post at the memorial, said he was not surprised at the crowds that came yesterday to see the 57,939 names of Americans killed or unaccounted for in the war that are inscribed on the V-shaped memorial.
"They come because Vietnam was a controversial war and they want to see what the country has done to honor those killed and missing in action," said Muise, who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970. "No, it's not just curiosity. For me, it's therapy."
Officials at the National Park Service could not say how many people visited the memorial yesterday. However, the service noted that only the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum and the Lincoln Memorial attract more visitors now than the Vietnam memorial.
Marin Zuesse, a World War II veteran and District resident, said yesterday he visited the memorial out of respect for the "special courage" of those who fought in Vietnam.
"I don't recognize any of the names on these lists," he said as he looked back at the memorial dotted with flowers and tiny American flags. "But I know we lost our way in Vietnam."