The Vietnam War ended before I was born. My father was a conscientious objector, but both of his brothers served in the disastrous endeavor, one as a medic, the other served as support in Germany. My family has had soldiers in every American War, and have only lost one family member… a distant relative named Abraham whom died in the Revolutionary War.
Regardless of my personal views on war in general and the Vietnam War in particular, I have always found it important to reflect… and to have my children reflect… on those who have made sacrifices for the sake of our nation. We have been to the National Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., we have touched the engraved names on the black marble, names of the dead and the missing, those who never came home from that jungle across the world.
The national sacrifice is important, but let us not forget, the Vietnam War touched people all over the United States, including right here in Oregon. And it’s not hard to pay tribute, as we have our very own Vietnam War Memorial right here in Portland, Oregon.
Located in Washington Park near the Oregon Zoo and the gorgeous Hoyt Arboretum at 4000 S Canyon Rd., the Memorial is easily accessible by MAX, by bike, and by car and is centrally located.
Back in 1982, a group of Oregon Vietnam War veterans, inspired by the dedication of the aforementioned Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., imagined the idea of a veterans memorial right here in Oregon. In 1987, following the tireless efforts of many volunteers on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial Fund, the memorial was dedicated. The Wall was designed by Portland landscape architecture firm Walker Macy. “The curved black granite wall lists the names of all Oregon residents who died in Vietnam or who are missing in action.The wall also chronicles three years of the conflict and concurrent local events, providing a poignant contrast.”
I happened upon this location quite by accident. Hoyt Arboretum links up to miles of hiking trails, providing breathe taking views of Downtown Portland, Mt. Hood, and the Willamette Valley. It was up here one day, jogging with the family labradoodle, as I descended towards the parking lot, I happened upon the structure. I’d seen it before, of course. It’s hard to miss what with its stately bridges, and giant concrete spiral. But I didn’t know what it was until I happened upon the dedication. At that point, I nearly dropped the labradoodle’s leash as my eyes scanned the names of the fallen and missing. I was filled with gratitude, sadness, and pride as I considered the young lives loss for the sake of my freedom. I noticed the surrounding Bosque pear trees: More than delicious fruit, these trees represent the sacredness of life. The Garden of solace, signifying purity, life, and hope.
In true Oregon tradition, the park affixes itself perfectly within the surrounding nature, adding to the grandeur, as opposed to taking from it.
The Oregon Vietnam War Veterans Memorial is both beautiful and poignant. In a nutshell, it represents the city in which it is situated, Portland, Oregon.