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The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C., on this day in 1982 after a march to its site by thousands of veterans of the conflict. Designed by Maya Lin, a Yale University architecture student who entered a nationwide competition to create a design for the monument, the memorial is a simple V-shaped black-granite wall inscribed with the names of the 57,939 Americans who died in the conflict, arranged in order of death, not rank, as was common in other memorials. Many veterans’ groups were opposed to Lin’s winning design, which lacked a standard memorial’s heroic statues and stirring words. However, a remarkable shift in public opinion occurred in the months after the memorial’s dedication. Veterans and families of the dead walked the black reflective wall, seeking the names of their loved ones killed in the conflict. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial soon became one of the most visited memorials in the nation’s capital, drawing together both those who fought and those who marched against the war for a kind of national healing.
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