Mission Accomplished ... For Now
10 years later
Once the organization began to look at ideas for a 10-year commemoration, it became clear there was more work to be done.
"People were coming to The Wall but didn't have a clear understanding of the Vietnam War itself," Arbogast says. "Teachers were teaching from books that focused on World War I and World War II, where Vietnam was talked about in a day or less.
"There was a generation gap, as well," he adds. "A lot of the people who were visiting The Wall weren't even alive when it was built. So we launched an education initiative."
That included a mobile museum, or "traveling wall," called The Wall That Heals, which takes the message of the memorial around the country. Later, spurred by visitors leaving everything from letters to dog tags to a bottle of Jack Daniels and even a Harley-Davidson motorcycle at The Wall, the organization launched a virtual memorial that allowed people to post remembrances online.
Finally, just before the 15th anniversary of The Wall, VVMF went before Congress to get permission to build a visitors education center near the memorial, which is second to the Lincoln Memorial as the most visited memorial in Washington, D.C.
That brings us to the here and now, which according to Arbogast looks a lot like it did back in 1979 — at least as far as fundraising is concerned. VVMF is approaching major donors and corporate sponsors — mainly associated with businessmen who are Vietnam vets — to fund the proposed $85 million center, while individual donors are still sending in smaller gifts to support the upkeep of the original memorial.
Once again, Vietnam vets and their families are leading the way, and Vietnam is coming back into the spotlight, with high-profile projects such as big-budget films slated for release.