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Stories Behind the Faces

There are many people who helped contribute to the development and construction of the Memorial. The following are five of the artists whose pieces are located in the Memorial and have helped to make the Memorial a unique and special place.

Wayne Williams is the artist who created the life-size sculpture of an infantry Soldier in Vietnam walking into a black granite wall. The piece is one of the main features of the Memorial and is located in the Veterans Garden. The symbol of the soldier walking into a dark, black wall has a wide interpretation among Memorial visitors and is often the topic of much discussion.

"It is an especially unique and spiritual experience working on the sculpture for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This concept was evolved with committee members deciding on what the piece would be and also entailed working with engineers to make final installation possible. The figure is six feet tall and is made of 500 lbs. of clay (plastiline). While working on this sculpture, a poignant experience was surveying the site and truly experiencing the memorial. As I walked by the bollards, familiar names appeared. A number of names were known to me, a classmate of my sister, a classmate of my wife, the sons of men I know. I left the site with a deeper connection to the concept of the sculpture. Added to this was the discovery of the remains of Rexford De Wispelaere, a cousin of my wife. The figure I have sculpted was created as a full figure, complete with a face that later was removed. A full figure was necessary to calculate properly the point at which the figure would be trimmed to fit the wall."

Barry Culhane is one of the founders of the Memorial and also wrote the Timeline that is engraved at ground level and follows the path through the entire Memorial. The Timeline begins in 300 B.C. and highlights a wide range of events from battles in Vietnam to mankind landing on the moon. The Timeline is one of the most unique features of the Memorial and one that aids in the education of future generations about the Vietnam Era.

"The Timeline was created as the centerpiece of the educational mission. One strong motivation for my involvement in the creation of the Memorial was the total absence of information about the Vietnam War and the Vietnam Era in my daughters' textbooks as they progressed through elementary and secondary school. When Vietnam was mentioned, there was one sentence: "America fought in Vietnam for 17 years and lost." I felt a passion to describe the events of the Vietnam War and the many cultural and political events surrounding this unique era. It took five years to write and re-write the Timeline, faxing text to and from the engraver, Chip Gatchel, to get the right words to fit in the space available. All the major battles of Vietnam are included, but the biggest challenge was choosing the events of a particular year to wrap around the events in Vietnam. The work was done after hours and was painstaking, and at times, painful. However, the intent was to describe the history of the Vietnam War and Vietnam Era for fellow veterans, citizens and generations to come. The result was one of the most rewarding pieces of my career."

Chip Gatchel
spent many hours engraving all of the stones in the Memorial, including the Timeline and the stones in the Learning Center. Chip Gatchel also created and engraved the Map of Vietnam including the unit patches. The Map is located in the center of the Learning Center and is a very memorable piece to veterans and non-veterans alike.

Bill Yager did more of the freehand engraving from photographs and sketches. Some of his work includes the 1,000 Yard Stare, Korean War Memorial and Dusty. These pieces add so much emotion and reality to the words that are engraved beside them.

Amie Freling Brown
contributed in many areas of the Memorial's creation. Amie helped develop the design of the Overlook, and she also created the Official Logo for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of Greater Rochester which is engraved on the entrance stone and also in the Walk of Honor. An interpretation of the logo was used by Wayne Williams as he developed the sculpture of the soldier. Amie also created many posters for the Memorial used at fundraisers and other events.

"When Barry Culhane approached me in the fall of 1985 to create artwork for a soon-to-be Vietnam Veterans Memorial located in Highland Park I had no idea of the size nor the impact this project would have. I was asked to design a logo, posters and even brainstorm ideas for its creation. Just out of college I was eager to tackle this project with vigor. I proposed my ideas to a group of veterans with a wealth of experience and passion for this undertaking. Living at the time in Washington, DC I had more than ample reference. I visited every memorial possible. I watched veterans and family members visiting the Wall and interviewed the POW/MIA's that camp out 24/7 for their cause. I took out every book that could help me understand a subject that began before my time. The logo is an image of a soldier walking away or to place unknown. It is uncertain and that was done on purpose. We don't know his race, age or even his branch of military. He stands for all that served and the heart is a reminder for the sacrifices that were made. The logo then became the inspiration for the sculpture. After the logo was completed I began on the posters. One, a collage of war images surrounding a praying woman and the other a waving flag. Almost twenty years later and several visits to the Memorial, I still am amazed at how much this Memorial moves me. Though my contribution may be small, l am so proud to be a part of this amazing endeavor and what it provides us as a community."

There are many more people who have contributed time and effort to the creation and maintenance of the Memorial. Environmental Design & Research helped create the design and Al Turner Contracting, Metalmorphosis, and Gordon Phillips Construction completed the construction with additional granite work done by Fletcher Granite. We would like to say thank you to all who have given so much of themselves to honor the memory of others.