I gather there was some controversy over the design for this. (It happened long before I cared about such things.) I like it, personally. There’s no advocacy, no judgment, no stirring words of patriotism or condemnation–just the names of those who paid.
It’s interactive and engaging in a way that the other memorials are not. The most stirring sights were of the other patrons, seeking out a specific name in one of the books, or trying to find the name on the given panel, or stretching to take an imprint of it with crayon. I didn’t take pictures of any of these things.
I don’t have any particular personal connection to the Vietnam war. My dad was in the Air Force right at the tail end, but was fortunate enough to be stationed in Eastern Washington. My sixth grade teacher was there, but mentioned it only in other contexts.
I’m grateful to all that served–and grateful in particular to those who returned to an uncaring or spiteful nation, and worked hard to ensure that my generation of warriors would not do the same. As much as I’m occasionally annoyed by the unthinking and uncommitted “support the troops” symbolism and rhetoric of the last decade, it’s far preferable to the alternative endured by those vets.