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March 27, 2007

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GreenmanTim

Genevieve, you offer two very plausible explanations. There has definately been a shift in civic war memorials at the local level toward inclusion of all participants rather than only listing the dead. This happened well after the Civil War, when there were many dead to memorialize and significant percentages of a community who were veterans, and you start to see lists of all veterans (with stars next to the casualties) on memorials to the Great War and afterwards.

Since the national Viet Nam memorial, which transformed expectations and has influenced all subsequent memorials, memorials to conflicts more recent than WWII have reflected a duality in our society: the desire to acknowledge the veteran and ambiguity about the war itself. The Korean War Memorial in D.C. is very overt about forcing the viewer to confront the veterans of this "forgotten war", both in the almost grotesque platoon of figures advancing toward their wall of remembrance in their rain ponchos, and the etched faces of soldiers that accompany the names on that reflective wall.

I think at the municipal level, having a monument made by those who create gravestones and essentially of the same material is a utilitarian solution for memorializing local veterans of recent conflicts and I see more of those stones on town greens.

The most ubiquitous memorial to our Viet Nam era veterans, however, is the POW - MIA flag that flies from every government flagstaff and has done so now since the 1980s.

Genevieve

You made an interesting observation about the change in types of monuments over the years. Do you think that's concurrent with a change from viewing the fallen soldier as a hero to viewing him as a victim? Or possibly a shift away from accepting the anonymity of a group to an insistence on personal identity?

Terry Cowgill

Tim,

I used to live in North Canaan and have long enjoyed the doughboy monument. As a toddler, my son loved to crawl around the interior of the stone base and sit for awhile in among stones on hot days. The builders of that monument probably never realized the joy it would give others.

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