01 Jun 2021


Lost Capitol Hill: Memorial Day Memorial Changes

Once again, I am going with a Memorial Day rerun, mainly because I hope people are out enjoying the weather. You’ll have plenty of time to read my stuff the rest of the year. As an addendum to the below piece, I want to link to this article, which tells of the changes coming to the Vietnam Memorial this year.

I love showing the people the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The simplicity of the memorial barely requires explanation, but adding history, context, and, above all, stories to it really does help deepen the experience. I like to show the smallest parts of the memorial to my private tours – the symbols that each name come with. While there is no further information about the individual names on the Wall – if you want to know more, you have to turn to the books that are at the entrances of the Memorial – there is a small symbol next to each name. It is either a plus sign or a diamond. The plus indicates that the serviceman is missing in action, a diamond that they were killed in action. The important thing here is that it is possible to change a plus into a diamond if that person’s remains are identified. (There was also the option to add a circle around the symbol of any soldier who was found alive, but this has never happened)

So, for instance, we have Richard C. Lannom. A lieutenant in the Naval Reserve, Lannom took off from the USS Enterprise on March 1, 1968 to bomb targets in the north of Vietnam. Somewhere over the islands that make up Quảng Ninh province, his plane, which had been flying low and without radio identification, was lost. While the usual search and rescue efforts were mounted, neither he nor his plane, an A-6A, were found.

Almost 40 years later, residents of Đảo Trà Bản were interviewed, and several of them mentioned a crash near the top of a peak of steep mountain. In late 2017, a team excavated a crash site and recovered several bones. DNA evidence – plus other evidence gathered on the scene – indicated that these remains belonged to Lannom, and he was thus taken off the list of missing soldiers from the Vietnam War. Those remains that were brought back were buried on March 2 of this year, and just recently, the plus that had been inscribed next to his name on the Vietnam Wall in 1982 was changed to a diamond, indicating that his status has changed from missing to killed in action.

It was this small change that I looked for when I visited the Wall with friends four days before Memorial Day. Part of the ceremony on that day will include the official unveiling of this and eight other changes of this type on the Wall. And I will continued to point them out to my groups whenever possible. Stop by some time (I suggest in the Fall, when it is not as crowded) to see this yourself.

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