Dedication day was bright and breezy. Donors and sponsors spoke about service and sacrifice. They explained that soldiers are unsung heroes. The President shared similar sentiments. After the ceremony, the crowd explored the memorial and snapped photos:
Fountain *click* - Flame *click* - Flag *click*
Several of the veterans whose images were featured in the monument's walls posed to have their pictures taken with their pictures. It was a bit surreal, but added an interesting new dimension to an already multi-layered memorial.
Though the granite walls and fountain are both massive and crisply detailed, the monument's real emotional power is held in the glass walls of its memorial grove. There, freestanding frosted glass panels bear the images of wounded soldiers as the shadows of bronze sculptures and ginkgo leaves slip through them. At night, the moving lights of the city shine through and dance in the images. The effect is otheworldly.
For me, there will always be another layer to this memorial. I know no disabled veterans. I do, however, know the designers whose thoughts and effort gave this place its shape. I have seen their concept models gathering dust in the office - early ideas that evolved into the final form. I felt their enthusiasm as they visited the site during construction. They projected a sense of wonder that - after years spent lobbying and designing - it was finally being built. On dedication day, they were beaming. A labor of love, complete.
I will visit this place for the rest of my life. When I do, I will read the quotes and run my fingers through the fountain. Then, I will look down at those perfect joints in the granite pavers and remember the skill of the designers in whose company my career began.