VietNam Veterans Memorial Park
Lexington, Davidson County, North Carolina
"Dedicated to the 216,000 North Carolinians
who served and the over 16,000 who were killed
or missing in the VietNam war
Memorial Day 1991"
To say the geographical placement of the North Carolina VietNam Veterans Memorial Park is odd is a complete understatement. Casual observers would doubtless say the contribution of over 216,000 state citizens, and the death of more that 1,600 of them, should be memorialized in a more prominent and accessible place, not as an adjunct to a pair of rest areas on an Interstate Highway. Although many thousands of travelers pass the memorial each day, it is hidden from view and visitors must make a decided effort both to find and walk to the memorial area. But, maybe that is the key to our appreciation of the memorial, and those it honors.
Public sentiment over the VietNam conflict has softened considerably in the last decade. Veterans of that era are slowly finding their way home from that war as their communities realize it was the government policy that upset them, not the millions of conscripted troops and loyal volunteers that were sent to those foreign shores. By making the extra effort to locate and view this memorial we accept that premise.
The memorial is essentially round and can only be viewed in context from above as you pass along the walkway to the entrance area. At the back is a large brick wall that holds row upon row of inscribed bricks. Each representing one of the fallen North Carolinians. Although there are hundreds of cars passing at high speed several yards distant, the noise of the traffic is held away by the landscape. It's easy to find visitors simply standing in front of the wall; staring at a single brick or walking slowly from one section to another, as if looking for a lost friend or remembering the faces and the times of their youth. Yes, statues and artistic murals can inspire the masses, but finding a single name from among the thousands can bring a grown man to tears if he knew that name as a friend. . . a living human that shared his past.