The Three Soldiers statue was in the news this week. Its patina, which had turned bluish-green after years of weather and handling by visitors, has been restored. There are people who love this statue, but I am not one of them.
The Wall is the most visited memorial in Washington, DC., and perhaps the most revered. Its power lies in its understatement. I'm sure I don't have to describe it for you, but I can relate the experience of visiting.
I walked very slowly past its black marble face, discomfited by the sight of myself on the surface of the stone that bears the names of the fallen. I welcomed that discomfort. I wanted to be humbled for standing there, on a crisp Autumn day, while these fifty thousands could not. Presently, I began also to look at the reflections of the other visitors, not as a voyeur, but as a man joined to them by history, by pain, by love, and by that moment.
The Three Soldiers, as I recall, was sculpted at the behest of Ross Perot, some older Congressmen, and the notorious Secretary of the Interior, James Watt. These men could not conceive of a memorial that didn't make a positive statement about what had been America's most castigated war. They never imagined that a work of pure mourning, without the taint of politics, would have greater power to heal than a disingenuous depiction of valor and egalitarianism.
The Three Soldiers by Frederick Hart. The photo shows its position relative to The Wall. I recall its location as a kind of staging area for visitors before they lowered their voices and joined in the procession.