As America heads into Memorial Day, a holiday designed to honor and remember those who sacrifice everything for this country, a monument to America’s soldiers has been horrifically defaced.
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The Vietnam War memorial in the Venice area of Los Angeles was covered in graffiti sometime during the past week, KCAL/KCBS-TV reported.
What makes this cowardly act of vandalism that much worse is that this was a handmade memorial, painted in 1992 by a Vietnam veteran on a wall that spans one block on Pacific Avenue. The labor of devotion lists the names of Americans missing in action in Southeast Asia.
Such a display is bound to draw attention. No one is certain, for sure, if this is a random act of childhood rebellion, or if the tags are meant to make a larger statement in protest to our past or current wars. Yet this hardly seems an appropriate target, as it isn’t a site sponsored by the US government.
At national monument sites, security and constant scrutiny keeps vandalism of this scale at bay. This isn’t the first vandalism at this site, but it is by far the worst. And the timing seems even more symbolic.
“It’s a desecration. I mean it’s very simple,” says George Francisco, vice president of the Venice Chamber of Commerce. “There’s no sort of other way around it. I’ve known the sacrifices these people made in an incredibly unpopular war. So to continue the mistreatment of Vietnam veterans is somewhat shocking, somewhat shocking and quite sad.”
And the memorial serves as a reminder of much more than one artist’s efforts at memorializing his cohort. The wall contains the names of 2,273 missing Americans.
“This knocked me out. So sickening,” says resident, Stewart Oscars. “Just sadness…think of all these people. They’re gone. I remember the Vietnam war and how friends went to war, and bodies came back. Somehow, it has to be taught that this is not a good idea. This is actually stupid.”
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the officials in charge of such statistics, put the number of unaccounted-for Americans at 2,646 in 1973. Half were those missing in action. Others were believed to have been killed, but their bodies were not recovered. Ongoing cooperative efforts with multinational governments and countless volunteers have identified the remains of more than 1,000 of these casualties. As many as 1,600 are still officially missing.