The Vietnam Veterans Wall, opened in 1982, is a shade under 500 feet long with over 58,000 names of those killed or missing etched into its shiny black panels.
While other war memorials also list names, the Wall stands alone for its enveloping design and enormity.
The names take center stage, a tidal wave of death.
They receive us as we both descend and are immersed–nothing intrudes to interrupt their force.
Nothing, that is, except us.
It is said that our reflected selves represent the present to their past.
When a Vietnam veteran descends and touches the Wall a sort of equation is solved as life and death meet and time stands still, if even for a second.
The Wall may be unadorned but visitors seek to change that by bringing things which are laid in the well directly beneath the names in a daily ritual of re-creation.
Items are brought both by persons honoring someone they know as well as those who are fulfilling an assignment or obligation.
Some are personal while others are prosaic.
The giving/leaving of items is now an accepted ritual, as much a part of the Wall as the names.
It has been said that the listing of the names is too stark– it would be ironic if a purpose of the ritual was to humanize a memorial which derives power from its rawness.
Perhaps in the end, humans are more than their names.
Any day there can reveal a hidden gem but a recent day delivered a trove of handmade artifacts to honor, remember and inspire.