Monday, April 17, 2017

Armed Forces Memorial, Norfolk

One thing I hate: war.  One thing I love: war memorials.

I'm sure there will always be a place for the figurative statue, the general on a horse, etc., but I'm also grateful to live in a post Vietnam War Memorial/Maya Lin era.  I know many of you have been to DC and experienced the awe-some-ness of it, and if not--you really need to.  I've been a dozen times and it's difficult, even after all of this exposure, when I go alone not to be so affected that the merest attempt to speak would end in me crying.  Maya's genius was to decommission the pre-eminent role of two afore to necessary players: 1) The General/commanding officer as hero surrogate of the rank and file soldier, and 2) The anonymous figurative statue--the nameless everyman (woman) of war.  She created a place to remember the persons who actually died with no more embellishment than their name.  Utterly shocking at the time, but since ubiquitous in memorials to the dead of every tragedy of public note. 

From this idea there are also some outstanding evolutions of design/meaning.  One of my favorites is the Kentucky state Vietnam War Memorial in Frankfort.  It's a giant sundial with concentric circles bearing the names of Kentucky's fallen soldiers, and on the day of their death each year, at noon, the shadow crosses the center of their name.  It's a holy moment that happens whether anyone is there to notice or not.

And this Armed Forces Memorial in Norfolk is certainly another that deserves to be experienced and treasured.  At first glance, it doesn't look like much--little rectangles of twisted metal strewn across a plaza on the edge of the ocean.  Like pieces of brown paper blown ashore.  And then you notice there are words attached and soon you understand that they are actually letters blown back across time...  Each is a member of a branch of the armed forces who wrote of their experiences and who died in the conflict in which they served.  Every war up to the present is represented. 

Before you deign to read the sampling I have included here--you may want to grab a box of Kleenex.

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