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05-22-03, 09:49 AM #1
Split on Lessons of Vietnam, United on Passing Them On
Split on Lessons of Vietnam, United on Passing Them On
Activists Urge Approval for Visitor Center Near the Wall
By Karlyn Barker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 22, 2003; Page B02
Actor Robert Duvall, author Stanley Karnow and others with divergent views on the Vietnam War joined forces yesterday to urge approval of a proposed $10 million visitor center near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial -- an addition intended to help young people learn the lessons of the war and the meaning of the Wall that commemorates it.
Like the war itself, the idea of adding another element to the memorial is drawing dissent.
Legislation authorizing the privately funded visitor center is pending in the House and Senate, the third time the proposal has been put before Congress. Proponents and opponents aired their views yesterday at a "field" hearing held under a rain-soaked tent near the memorial that lists the war's 58,229 dead and missing.
"As this memorial has evolved from 'The Wall That Heals' to 'The Wall That Educates,' America's youth must have the opportunity to learn patriotism and sacrifice at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial," Duvall told the House subcommittee on national parks, recreation and public lands.
The Academy Award-winning actor, noting that the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials have visitor centers and that one is planned for the Washington Monument, said the Vietnam War deserves a similar education center.
Veterans groups initially proposed a 1,200-square-foot, above-ground center. They are now seeking an 8,000-square-foot underground facility that would feature an orientation theater, photographs of the men and women who died in Vietnam and items left at the Wall by mourners.
The Interior Department, which once supported the concept of an underground center, said yesterday that it has become increasingly concerned that adding a structure might detract from the emotion the memorial evokes.
P. Daniel Smith, representing the department's National Park Service, said the National Capital Memorial Commission, the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission, all of which must approve the design and location for any addition to the Mall, worry that the need for an above-ground entrance would make it "virtually impossible" to design an underground facility "that is not intrusive on the visitor experience."
He proposed instead that the existing visitor kiosk and interpretation services at the memorial be enhanced and that the Park Service work with Congress to identify alternative sites near the Mall where a visitor center could be built.
Judy Feldman, chairman of the Coalition to Save Our Mall, who did not testify, said it would be better to give every visitor a pamphlet rather than ruin the power and public space of the Mall "by continuing to create individual visitor centers about individual moments in our history."
Jan C. Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, said the visitor center should be near the Wall so that young people "will gain a better understanding of a memorial that is now older than they are."
Later, by phone, as he and Duvall headed to visit some U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq, he expressed frustration about how long approval is taking.
"We have spent more time trying to get this bill passed than it took to get the bill for the Wall passed and to get funding and to get it built," he said. "The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a special case because it is the most visited memorial in Washington."
Scruggs expressed confidence that the veterans group can work with the Interior Department, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.), and others to get a visitor center. He said the center would not take a position on the war, something several participating in yesterday's hearing couldn't manage.
Karnow, a former Vietnam War correspondent, said he hoped the center would promote peace and teach others how to avoid situations that lead to Vietnams.
But Rep. John E. Peterson (R-Pa.) said the lesson to learn was this: "When we decide to have a conflict, we win. When we make a decision to fight, we win. Don't repeat the mistake made in the Vietnam War."
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
05-22-03, 12:47 PM #2
The thoughts that this article invokes in my old mind.
It's intent is worthy and great in the purpose for which it was plan for.
But we're left which the question;
"What is too much"?
First a statue of three service men in Vietnam, than a statue in honor of all the women that served in Vietnam.
Now a center to explain the "Whys" of it all.
Money intented for the construction of a center would be better spented in providing better care for the veterans of the War in Vietnam.
"But a Constitution of Government,
once changed from Freedom,
Can never be restored.
Liberty, once lost, is lost forever."
~ John Adams ~
"Those who take freedom for granted,
Would be dependent,
On those brave souls,
Who are willing to pay the price for it.
And the price of freedom,
Will be paid at times unexpected,
Who didn't know they were."
For ye shall know the truth,
and the truth shall set you free.
“The only requirement for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing”
~ Edmund Burke ~
"A man is measured by the imprint he leaves behind".
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