It's been 33 years since The Vietnam Memorial Wall was dedicated on the Mall in Washington, DC. We visited just a few weeks after it opened and standing in front of all those names on the wall for the first time was a somber experience so very different from the usual carved statue or plaque. Sculptor Maya Lin's controversial design had forever changed the way we experience memorials.
My other striking memory was of all the memorabilia left by family and friends.
For those who haven't seen the memorial in our Nation's Capitol, there is a traveling wall which was on display at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio last fall and the photos in this post are from that exhibit.
As an 80% replica there are differences--the names are smaller and you won't see your reflection among the names as you do at the permanent memorial made of granite.
Visitors to the traveling wall leave mementos just as they do at the original in Washington, D.C.
So many things are left that a warehouse in Maryland catalogs and stores over 400,000 items. A virtual tour of some of the items is available here. Of my visits to the wall some of the things I remember most are the notes, also beer, dogtags, and there are always candles. The most expensive item in the collection is a custom Harley-Davidson motorcycle left by a veteran's group from Wisconsin.
If you have a chance, the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall is currently on display this week in New Braunfels, just a forty minute drive from San Antonio. The wall is open 24 hours and veterans are there to assist in finding names. A wreath laying ceremony is planned for this afternoon.