In April of 1979, four years after the fall of Saigon, the not for profit organization, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc., was set up to raise money to fund a memorial dedicated to the veterans who served during the Vietnam War. The organization was able to raise over $8 million through private donations.
In July of 1980, three acres (located close to the Lincoln Memorial) were set aside and shortly thereafter, a design contest was announced. A $50,000 prize was announced, which attracted over 2,500 registrants. In March of 1981, the 1,421 designs that had been submitted were numbered and displayed at Andrews Air Force Base in one of their airport hangers. Finally in May of 1981, a group of eight sculptors and architects unanimously chose a design submitted by a young Yale University architecture student, May Ying Lin who was just 21 years old at the time. The original design was slightly modified with the addition of three soldiers, and formally approved in March of 1982. Ground was broken on the site within two weeks of the final approval.
On November 13, 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated preceded by a march through Washington DC by thousands of the veterans themselves. John Devitt from Stockton, CA, a Vietnam War veteran himself, attended that day. As a result of his personal healing experience, he embarked on a quest to replicate the Memorial Wall in a way that would allow it to be transported so for those who could not come to the wall, the wall could come to them in a hope to offer the same healing. His vision became reality with “The Moving Wall”.
The memorial in Washington DC is made of a specifically chosen reflective marble from Bangalore, Karnataka, India. Two walls made from this marble have the names of the U.S. servicemen etched into them who had been confirmed as killed in action (KIA) or are still missing in action (MIA). As one stands and reads the name, they clearly see their own reflection. The purpose behind this was to symbolically unit the past and the present. The memorial is also said to have symbolically offered closure on a wound that still needed healing. As recent as 2011, a total of 58,272 names are inscribed on this wall – eight of these names are women.