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Lesson Plans

Re:memorials (the transient little wall)

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Robert Alexander Fromme (rfromme)
Mon, 16 Aug 1999 23:14:21 -0500

At 12:32 PM 8/16/99 -0500, Betty wrote:

>My home town just hosted the traveling Vietnam War Memorial wall. deleted......
> I could sense no difference in how
>it felt to be there, or how people responded to this replica as to the real
>So what does that tell me about the importance of scale, material, location,
>installation, etc.? That meaning transcends beauty? any ideas?
>PS- I also learned that my cousin was killed by hostile rocket fire, not a
>jeep accident.

We are on the edge of being a bit off topic with parts of this thread but I
hope you will not mind if I suggest that you seek out one of your cousin's
buddies who was over there or try to contact someone who was with or near
your cousin when he was KIA. The enlisted men in his unit will probably know
the facts surrounding his death. Check out his unit on the Web and see if
they have a guestbook where you can mention your Cousin's name, dates of
service and unit down to the company or platoon level. See if you can get a
response from someone who knew him. Unfortunately the unofficial account
they give you may not match the government's official account. The official
record was usually written by officers, days later and far removed from the
action. The truth of their "offical" account was often lost or manipulated
in an effort to cover mistakes, to protect the loved ones back home from
some of the horrors of the war and to insure that those who lost their
lives were honored no matter how their lives were ended. Perhaps the
specifics of how your Cousin died are not as important as the fact that he
had the courage to go, he served our country with honor and he paid the
ultimate price as an American. In the eyes of those of us who were there,
his service and the price he had to pay, made him, and others like him,
American Heros.

Concerning the smaller, transient Wall, you asked, "So what does that tell
me about the importance of scale, material, location, installation, etc.?
That meaning transcends beauty? any ideas?"

For many of us who returned from Vietnam, the wall, when it was finally
constructed, was an insult. Perhaps anything related to Vietnam would have
been seen as such by those of us who returned. Keep in mind that the
majority of the men who were drafted or who enlisted soon realized that the
government was not serious about winning and the only alternative was to
loose. The only way one could do any winning over here was to do it on an
individual basis. On one level, winning was simply to serve honorably or
die honorably, as an individual, in spite of the lack of commitment in DC.
On another level, winning was making it through your assigned tour of duty
with your physical and mental being intact. Many of us made it home but did
not win. Others of us are still involved in a daily, even hourly struggle.
Yes, even now, thirty years later, some of us are still in the middle of
our individual struggle. Don't expect to understand. After all, you would
not expect a lay person to understand the sacrifice you make as a teacher
in the classroom, yet, you find understanding in the company of other
teachers. It is the same way with Viet-Vets.

Anyway, for some of us, the black wall is simply a metaphorical "sea horror,
of lies, of struggle, of suffering and of death." There is no beauty
there to transcend. For some of us, there is no universal meaning, Vietnam
did not make sense and neither does a memorial to it . There is only the
individual meaning of a name we recognize and the memories tied to that name
as it floats there, lost in amongst the other thousands of individuals who
also died.

Perhaps I can better explain by pointing out that it has been common
practice for corporate America to choose abstract art in an effort to
avoid the risk of offending someone by investing in a representational
sculpture or image for display on, in or near their company buildings. This
has been going on since the 1950s and the practice continues to some extent
to this day. Anyway, the original black, wall, nearly hidden, seemed yet
another effort to try to keep from taking a stand. It is there like the
exposed edge of a huge and ugly secret, too horrific to uncover more.

If one is interested in a Vet's response to the traveling wall, you may read
my accounts at:

and the continuation of the account at:

These should give you some understanding of the war and why some of us
continue to deal with a degree of anger. Unfortunately, I have only had time
to write a few of the experiences and the account of field hospital ends
abruptly. Perhaps by this time next year, I will be able to pick up where
that one ends.