We Remember Resource Center Community Heals Events Volunteer Visitors Journal
 
Stories Behind the Faces
 

"I am an educator; I have invested my adult life in the teaching-learning enterprise. The basic proposition is to take the best from the past and inculcate the knowledge and values in succeeding generations.

I have been involved in the memorial from its inception with a peculiar interest in the educational opportunity it affords.

Thousands of school students have toured the memorial as a learning experience. From the time they arrive and gather on the overlook they see a global display depicting the location of Vietnam in relation to the rest of the world and the United States. Vietnam now becomes more than a term, it becomes a place. Current U.S. History books pay little attention to this war, other than the political aspects.

As the students look out over the memorial their attention is immediately drawn to the serpentine file of bollards winding their way down a trail through landscape that is in rough proportion to the topography of central Vietnam. Upon closed examination they find each bollard is engraved with a name. The name of a young man who lost his life in Vietnam. The bollard also lists the high school and branch of service, things the students can relate to. The war now has a face.

Most students, without prompting, begin to read the timeline on the right side of the trail. Dr. Barry Culhane, the principal architect of the memorial, spent five years researching and writing this series of statements that sequentially develop the context for this period of history. Vietnam is a real place and real people lost their lives there, and it is all fitting into a larger history. Learning is taking root.

As the students wind their way on down the trail reading bollards, they come upon a most unusual statue, a fully loaded combat soldier stepping through a wall symbolic of the transition from life to eternity. The symbolism is not lost, mortality is in focus. This was not a video game. Voices grow soft, this is sacred ground.

What current textbooks have neglected has come alive for those visiting this memorial, and this did not happen by chance. It is the result of a thoughtful and prayerful process to design a fitting memorial for our heroes, and it has been a success. As a board, our sole aim is to preserve the integrity of design that commemorates, educates and heals."

Statement of Dr. M. Richard Rose to the
Recreation & Education Committee,
Monroe County Legislature, 3 September, 2002