In 1979, a Vietnam veteran named Jan Scruggs made up his mind to insure that there would be a special memorial for those who fought in the Vietnam conflict. It would list the names of every man and woman who went to Vietnam and never returned. He decided to hold a contest for everyone over the age of 18 to submit a design for the new memorial. Over 1,400 entries from around the country were submitted.
The winning design was submitted by a 21-year old college student from Yale named Maya Ying Lin. As she considered her design, she visited Washington, D.C. on a gray November day. She imagined a black wall, cut in the earth, a barrier between the sunny world of the living and the great dark world of the dead. The black wall would have all the names of the deceased and missing Americans inscribed on it, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. It was originally a homework project that turned out to be the most visited memorial in D.C. By the way, she got a “B” on her homework assignment.
- There are almost 60,000 names engraved in The Wall.
- Every day family members and friends leave mementos and tokens of remembrance at the foot of The Wall. Over 50,000 objects have been collected by Park Rangers, including flowers, flags, medals, dog tags, letters, photos, teddy bears, Christmas Trees, and even Purple Hearts. Every item is catalogued and stored at the National Park Service Museum and Resource Center. About 1,500 of these objects can be seen on display at the National Museum of American History.