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I have visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. several times, and I find it even more awe-inspiring than other more well-known monuments around the country; although not as powerful as the Lincoln Memorial, I certainly find it more fascinating than the Washington Monument. One particular reasons that it stands out is because it is user friendly. The names of the veterans who gave their lives in Vietnam are all there, and people can scan the names visually. Many visitors choose to find and photograph or trace and transfer specific names of people they knew, and the visit serves as a personal, spiritual way of honoring those fallen friends. (I was happy to locate the name of a schoolmate's father who was killed early in the war.)
The other reason I like the memorial is because it is actually better to view it at night than during the day. The wall is lit, though purposely dimly, and it can be visited 24 hours a day. I made a visit there well after midnight on one occasion, and the quiet solitude fit the somber mood of the memorial perfectly.
In addition to being highly popular with visitors, it was ranked tenth on the "List of America's Favorite Architecture" by the American Institute of Architects. The design received much criticism before its completion--"a black gash of shame" and "a nihilistic slab of stone" were two famous comments made by critics who desired a much more traditional, heroic, human pose. But the finished product has generated a much more favorable response. Travelling replicas of the memorial have also enabled many more people to view the VWM who who are unable to travel to Washington to see it in person.
Of course, not all people feel this way, but the overall response to the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial today is positive. The memorial is seen as a very powerful tribute to the people who fought in the war in Vietnam.
One of the most powerful proofs of the response to the monument today is the fact that replicas of the wall are taken all around the country for display. (See the vvmf.org link below) These replicas include a number of displays that educate people about the war and that show things like letters that have been left at the memorial itself in Washington, D.C. The popularity of these traveling exhibits shows how much the public has come to embrace this design.
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