During my last trip to DC, I found some unexpected free time.
Everyone keeps axing what have I seen on my trips. Usually it is the inside of an office, hotel or Metro station. I try to look at the sites as I pass them by - but no real time to do anything touristy.....not that I haven't been to DC many a-time before.
So, instead of Metro-ing back to the hotel, my boss and I opted to walk back and take a detour to the WWII Memorial. It is one of the few things that I had not seen. That site broke ground the weekend of Becky & Andrew's wedding way back in 2000. I don't know exactly when it finished, but it was about time to take a look.
Situated directly between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, the site was fairly controversial when first proposed and even during construction. People thought it would really break the flow between the two sites, and disrupt the look of the Reflecting Pool.
I bought into all of those thoughts too, but I'm thinking mostly because Bob Dole, who chaired the entire thing, bugged the living hell out of me. Tom Hanks too. But you know what - it kind of fits where it is.....though it seems a little close to the Reflecting Pool.
As we were walking around this fine day, I commented on how each memorial has a very different feel. When asked what I meant by that, I noted that people at the WWII site were talking and laughing while just walking around and enjoying the day. You definitely do not get that at the Vietnam Memorial.
That site is truly one the quietest public spots I have ever encountered. I have been there with dozens and dozens of folks and if you hear anything at all, it is a sob.
The WWII is a wide open space with white granite, marble and cement. It has pools and fountains (almost Bellagio like). There is no tree coverage. It has two incredible and unobstructed views of Lincoln and Washington....the structures, not the men.
The Vietnam Memorial is off to the side in a tree-lined area that can be heavily shaded and seems a bit closed off even though still out on the Mall. The wall is solid black and though I'm no psychology major, it truly sets the tone. Part of the walk where the Wall resides seems to be a direct line to the Washington Monument and it is fairly striking picture. It sits very close to the Lincoln Memorial, but sometimes you don't even know it is there.
As we talked about the differences, David mentioned, how he thought WWII became about the people who returned and how Vietnam became about the people who did not. The country made heroes out of the people who returned from WWII, while Vietnam vets felt abandoned.
I also thought that there was a 40 year difference between the end of each war and WWII was more romanticized in movies - save some more modern fare like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. Vietnam always got movies like Platoon, Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket.
Still, the Vietnam Memorial has names. They are there for everyone to see and touch. It personalizes the conflict in ways that none of the other memorial do. I think Maya Lin did an incredible job. And while I think the design was vilified during it's conception, I never really hear anyone say a bad word about it. No one has a word to say at all - which is why it is so somber there. I think it sits close to the Reflecting Pool for many a good reason.
In the end - we were considered victors in WWII and maybe the memorial reflects that in subtle ways. We were not as fortunate in Vietnam - and maybe that memorial reflects as much in blatant ways.
Many years from now - what will the Iraq War Memorial look like and be housed? At this rate, it will be many years from now. Many many. There is no exit strategy. Even Baker - Hamilton would require non-combative force there for years....if Shrub even acknowledged its existence. But right now, seem years away from non-combative activity.
Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
All W has to do is look out his front windows to see a city filled with marble and granite remnants of what not to do. But it must be hard to see all that with blinders on, so the cycle continues.