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To those who served November 11th

“Veterans Memorial: Dedicated to those who served November 11, 1985 In Remembrance lies the end of Wars..”

The monument site dedicated to the souls that fought in the Vietnam war is represented by two stones with the inscription of a message to an audience on behalf of the soldiers. The date is the sole indicator that the commemorative site refers to the Vietnam war since that particular day is not only the day that  falls on Veteran’s Day but is also the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918. The tallest pillar, among the two stones, is decorated with the American eagle along with the emblems of the five United States military branches: The Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

Much like Hess mentions that “the American landscape is physically changed by the presence of the material rhetorical form of the memorial (p. 8)” when referring to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the memorial in Henrietta has altered the context of the physical space in the town. The memorial is separated from the town park by twelve enormous pine trees that create a semi-circle around the commemorative area serving as a barricade from sports enthusiasts while remaining respectful. The site was position to capture the sun rays coming in from the east during the day and is provided with spotlights during the night to allow the area to remain well lit. As I thought about Biesecker’s comment that war is typically juxtaposed against ‘the complexities, ambivalence, and incoherence of daily U.S. life’ (during the Private Ryan description) it reminded me that as citizens we too fall easily into the routine and habits of everyday life as I realized the proximity of Wegmans up the street, the residential housing adjacent to the memorial and constant traffic cycling back and forth in front of the site.

Hess mentions that war memorials ‘have long been considered important sites of ideological and cultural exploration. The public memory of war serves as a ‘thinly veiled conservative response to the cotemporary crisis of national identity’ (p .3). Memorials have served to unite the generations that have remembered the experience in their life time often times serving as a healing process as well as uniting future generations to allowing us to remember those who fought for freedom. Through this it renews our sense of belonging and reestablishes our national identity.




War memorials have always interested me, largely because of their ability to make us play make-believe. The inscription is always the same, insisting that the soldiers who died in one conflict or another died to protect our freedom. Depending upon the circumstances, sometimes it simply does not ring true to me, though it’s taboo to say so.

Will anyone honestly argue that the purpose of the Vietnam War was to protect our freedom as Americans? That, had the war never been waged, we would somehow have been rendered less free? I certainly can’t construct an argument to that effect.

Every war memorial seems to be tasked with justifying the loss of lives it represents. Not only is that impossible, it’s also somewhat profane. We should remember soldiers who died in wars because they served honorably; the justness of the war, and of the deaths it caused, is a weight to be borne by those who started the war, not those who merely fought in it.

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