4. Names are still being added to the memorial.
When the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was first dedicated three decades ago, Lin’s wall contained the names of 57,939 American servicemen believed to have lost their lives in the Vietnam War. But since then, that number has jumped to 58,282. In fact, 10 new names were engraved this year, including that of a marine corporal whose 2006 death from a stroke was determined to be the result of wounds received in action in 1967. Meanwhile, a few survivors have had their names erroneously chiseled into the wall. In order to be added, a deceased soldier must meet specific U.S. Department of Defense criteria, and those postwar casualties not eligible for inscription on the wall are honored instead with an onsite plaque.
5. Offerings are left at the memorial nearly every day.
Tens of thousands of so-called artifacts have been intentionally left at the memorial since its opening, including letters, POW/MIA commemorative bracelets, military medals, dog tags, religious items and photographs. One person even left behind a motorcycle. Rangers from the National Park Service collect these items every day and, with the exception of unaltered U.S. flags and perishables, send them to a storage facility in Maryland. Though that facility is not open to the public, certain memorial artifacts are put on view as part of traveling exhibits. Such artifacts will also be displayed at an education center scheduled for completion in 2014.
6. All of the names were read out loud in 2012 for the fifth time.
As part of the wall’s 30th anniversary celebration, all 58,282 names were read out loud just prior to Veterans Day. Volunteers, Vietnam vets, family members of the deceased and employees of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund started reading the names last Wednesday afternoon. Except for breaks from midnight to 5 a.m. each day, they didn’t finish until Saturday night. Every name was similarly read out loud in 1982, 1992, 2002 and 2007.