It’s Veterans Day in the United States, and thousands of ceremonies will take place across the country to honor the people who have served. Some have come home as recently as last month. Many of those ceremonies will take place at memorials, including the Annual Veterans Day Observance at the Wall organized by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
Memorials act as catalysts for our individual and collective remembrance and grieving. They can also serve as historical reminders and teachers for future generations.
On my trip to Washington, D.C. in September, I visited the three Vietnam Veterans Memorials – Maya Lin’s Wall and the two more traditional representational sculptures (Glenna Goodacre’s Vietnam Women’s Memorial and Frederick Hart’s Three Servicemen). I also visited National World War II Memorial, which is more recent and very different in style.
Each was powerful in its own way. I was struck at the Vietnam Veterans memorial site by the setting, which is very green and peaceful – a pastoral landscape of lawn and trees and sky. The volunteer at the Wall explained that they call it, including the grounds, a “landscape of healing,” and that Lin’s sculpture, sited in a large expanse of lawn, represents a wound that heals but leaves a scar.
What was most moving to me, though, were the people who were there to find a name, or reunite with fellow veterans, or get a sense of the enormity of loss. A site is a site, a sculpture is a sculpture. But people – family, friends, and visitors – give the place meaning and make it a true landscape of healing.
The Therapeutic Landscapes Network’s Memorials page provides information related to memorials as healing landscapes, and we welcome your suggestions about more built works, websites, and resources online or in print.