Mission Accomplished ... For Now
When controversy helps
VVMF had quite an aggressive time frame for building the memorial — it hoped to break ground on Veterans Day, 1982, just 36 months from the time the idea was officially hatched.
As with all things Vietnam-related, controversies around the memorial cropped up all over the place, Arbogast says. At the time, just four years after the official end of the war, there still wasn't overwhelming support for returning vets. Vets themselves wanted the monies raised to go toward services for them and their families rather than to a memorial. Even among those who thought the memorial was a good idea, there was battle after battle over what it should look like, etc.
But the controversy, which received plenty of press, helped fuel fundraising for the memorial. Organizations such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Gold Star Mothers threw their support behind the effort. Children in schools took up collections, and individuals across the country continued to give. The VFW began promoting the idea of the memorial and soliciting donations from its local posts through direct mail. At that time, there were between 9,000 to 10,000 local VFW posts, and over the course of the campaign VFW contributed as much as $300,000 through a combination of donations from individual members and the organization itself.
In the end, VVMF raised almost $3 million for the memorial. It was dedicated to the American people and is now overseen by the U.S. Department of Interior's National Park Service. VVMF keeps up the insurance on it and uses its endowment to maintain the site "in perpetuity," taking on repairs and upkeep as needed, as well as adding new names of vets who had been left out of the original Department of Defense database of those killed in action.