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Care and Preservation of the Memorial Site

Care and Preservation

While The Wall sits on federal land managed by the National Park Service, VVMF has a partnership with NPS in which VVMF covers the majority of the expenses in caring for the site. The NPS has millions of dollars in backlogged maintenance requests so VVMF’s help with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial keeps the site out of that backlog. VVMF takes an active role concerning the physical needs of The Wall, the Three Servicemen statue, flagpole, Vietnam Women’s Memorial, In Memory plaque and the rest of the three-acre site on which the Vietnam Veterans Memorial rests.

Services provided by VVMF include the insurance of The Wall against damages, insurance of the Three Servicemen statue and Vietnam Women’s Memorial against damages, provision of copies of the Directory of Names to assist visitors on-site, Wall cleaning and maintenance. VVMF also adds names to The Wall and makes status changes for those whose remains have been returned home.

On an annual basis, VVMF inscribes new names on the Memorial. We also change the symbols denoting status on The Wall of those listed as Missing in Action as remains are recovered from Vietnam. We pay for the updates and production of new editions of the Name Directories and provide copies to the National Park Service (NPS) for use at The Wall. VVMF also provides other assistance as needed, ranging from light bulbs to supplies and recognition for the Volunteer Guides. VVMF also provides insurance to repair any catastrophic damage to the Memorial. We coordinate and co-sponsor Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies at The Wall with NPS.

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Care and Preservation of the Memorial Site

Significant Work

Significant VVMF Activities at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

VVMF commissioned Hager-Richter Geoscience, Inc. to conduct an analysis of the cause of hairline cracks that began developing in The Wall in 1983.
1991 VVMF purchased a stainless steel welder for NPS to use to repair the lighting fixtures at the Memorial.
1992 VVMF completed renovations to the walkways at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at a cost exceeding $125,000.
1997 Parsons Brinckerhoff completed its Engineering Study after being hired by VVMF to spend a year monitoring the structural stresses and other engineering issues related to the structural integrity of The Wall.
1998 VVMF purchased hoses and other cleaning materials for NPS to use cleaning the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
2000 VVMF offered $100,000 to the National Park Service for issues related to maintenance at The Wall.
2000 VVMF began Echoes From The Mall – a program providing teachers guides at the Vietnam and Korean War Veterans Memorials.
2001 VVMF provided $73,434 to fund research on a replacement for the lighting system at The Wall.
2001 VVMF provided Name Directories and a printer for use by National Park Service at The Wall.
2002 VVMF hired a team of experienced architects and planners – J.C. Cummings, AIA; Professor George Dickie of Penn State University; and renowned landscape architect Henry Arnold –  to design a plaque as requested by Congress in PL106-214.
2002 VVMF hired Power Solutions to maintain the current lighting system – changing lights and gaskets on a weekly basis.
2003 VVMF worked with FLEX-IN Corporation to place laminated weather-proof directories at The Wall.
2003 VVMF hired Stuart Dean Co. to clean and preserve the Vietnam Veterans Memorial flagpole and base.
2004 VVMF completed a $1.2 million lighting system installment and Three ServicemenStatue Plaza renovation project.
2004 VVMF had all paving at The Wall removed and re-set and provided NPS with a large amount of stone dust to assist with the care of The Wall paving. The stone dust was custom crushed in South Dakota specifically for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
2007 VVMF hired FLEX-IN Corporation to produce 10 laminated weather-proof directories to have available at The Wall.
2009 VVMF began a major effort to renovate the grass and other landscaping at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site and some of the surrounding areas: 13.5 acres in all.
2009 VVMF hired Stuart Dean Co. to refinish the Vietnam Veterans Memorial flagpole and base and five directory stands.
2010 VVMF hired New Arts Foundry to complete a $100,000 restoration of the Three Servicemen statue.
VVMF re-engaged Hager-Richter to conduct a week-long evaluation of new and existing cracks in the granite walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
VVMF continued to care for the lawn at and around the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This work includes aerating, seeding, weed control and, in a few select areas, laying new sod. VVMF also contracted to water the areas at and around the Memorial not reached by the sprinkler system as needed.
Architect of Record J.C. Cummings consults with Object Conservator Russell Bernabo about the to the Three Servicemen State. VVMF and the National Park Service set up a maintenance program and the first treatment of the Three Servicemen Statue takes place.
2011 VVMF partners with the National Park Service on the restoration and improvement of the In Memory plaque located in the Three Servicemen statue plaza.
2013 VVMF partners with Imlay International, LLC to create new synthetic material directories that are more resistent to tearing and have a significant shelf life.
2017 VVMF partners with the National Park Service to repair the walkway cobblestones at The Wall
VVMF partners with Engrave Wright from Denver, Colorado to add names and change status symbols on The Wall
VVMF updates and publishes new name directories
VVMF partners with the National Park Service to put in new bushes around the Three Servicemen Statue
VVMF partners with the National Park Service for final grass treatments of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial for the year
2018 VVMF partners with Engrave Wright from Denver, Colorado to change status symbols on The Wall
VVMF updates and publishes new name directories
VVMF hires Woodbridge Glass Company to replace the glass stand directories near The Wall
VVMF partners with the National Park Service to install a new and improved In Memory plaque that is raised and easier to read on the site of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
VVMF partners with the National Park Service for final grass treatments of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial for the year
2019 VVMF partners with Engrave Wright from Denver, Colorado to change status symbols on The Wall
VVMF completes 4-year audit of the names inscribed on The Wall

VVMF paid for a $30,000 renovation around the site of the Three Servicemen Statue. The renovation included: removing and replacing the planting bed around the Three Servicemen Statue with the addition of new bushes and signs, laying down rat-resistant wire mesh, creating a concrete ledge, and installing new poles and chains.

2020 VVMF partners with Engrave Wright from Denver, Colorado to change status symbols and add names on The Wall.
2021 VVMF began a maintenance project this week to clean out the sump well underneath the walkway at the apex of The Wall and to reset the cobblestones for a large part of the walkway to ensure a level walkway for our visitors.
VVMF partners with Richter Geology PLLC to inspect the well-being of The Wall’s granite veneer.
VVMF partners with Engrave Wright from Denver, Colorado to change status symbols and add names on The Wall.
2022 VVMF completed the purchase of new granite to eventually replace the entire Wall if needed.
VVMF completed maintenance at The Wall including the resetting of the cobblestones on the walkway and infill stones.
VVMF partnered with Sebastian Martorana of Sebastianworks.com to change status symbols on The Wall.
2023 VVMF replaced one of the eight memorial trees, cleaned and treated the Vietnam Women’s Memorial and work begins in mid-September to repair the stone curbs around the Memorial plaza
VVMF partnered with Sebastian Martorana of Sebastianworks.com to change status symbols on The Wall.
VVMF purchased spare granite to replace walkway pavers after one of them developed a problem. We are in the process of producing a replacement for the affected walkway paver.  We also tested and applied a method to prevent the growth of existing cracks in panels of the Wall’s granite.
This Fall, VVMF hopes to complete a project to digitally scan both the Vietnam Women’s Memorial statue and the Three Servicemen statue so they could be recreated in case of damage or disaster.


Care and Preservation of the Memorial Site

Memorial Walkway and Lighting

“When we were first working on the design, we had no idea it was going to draw the number of people to the site that it does,” Lecky explained. “We envisioned people, tourists, walking around with kids, coming across The Wall in the park.”

The design intention was for The Wall to rise up seamlessly from the grass, so there were no real provisions for a walkway. However, members of the design team did attempt to address the issue of storm drainage. They designed a sophisticated system which enabled rain to collect and travel down a concrete trough that ran the length of the walls. Narrow concrete slabs with open slats were laid on top of the trough, allowing water to drop down between the slats and drain away.

“The night before the dedication ceremonies, we had two inches of rain,” remembered Lecky. “The Memorial looked great the next day; the grass was so lush and green. But when a quarter of a million people showed up, it became a mud bath.”

Much of the grass needed to be replaced, and the Cooper-Lecky team realized that the underlying soil was too hard.  Before the resodding, the top soil layer was mixed with sand to help its permeability.  For VVMF, the work was managed by the new Executive Vice President, Colonel Robert Carter, a retired Air Force pilot.

The need for a walkway


During the ceremonies, the team also noticed that visitors often stood on the grass strip between The Wall and the drainage slabs as they tried to get close enough to touch the names.  The grass was soon worn away, and it became obvious that traffic at The Wall was going to be much higher than anyone had anticipated. Cooper-Lecky began planning and reworking the paths.

“There were so many people coming. In no time, the National Park Service put up a black chain-link fence so people couldn’t walk on the grass,” Lecky recalled. “But a few months after the dedication, they called to ask us to widen the path. A few months later, they needed to widen it again.”

Lighting the way


It was always hoped that the Memorial would be accessible to visitors 24 hours a day. For the first two years, volunteer veterans kept a nighttime vigil to light the way for visitors.

James “J.C.” Cummings experienced this volunteer corps first hand. Cummings has served as the architect of record for The Wall since 1997, but in those early days, he was a young architect on the Cooper-Lecky design team. He remembers heading down to the site to handle some business one night. As he got closer to the Memorial, he noticed a Vietnam veteran holding a lantern, escorting a visitor to a name. As the veteran and visitor walked The Wall, the lantern swung gently left to right. Cummings noticed the swinging lantern poignantly reflected in the blackness of The Wall.

“This particular image was the very expression of ‘service.’ These individuals [were] protecting The Wall, escorting visitors to it, caring for it with such love, and The Wall was reflecting all of that beauty,” he explained. For Cummings, that vision captured all that The Wall was intended to be. “I don’t know if I’ll ever see something that clearly again,” he added.

Of course, this was not a long-term solution and, in 1984, a lighting system was installed. It was considered state-of-the-art, but it required a fair amount of maintenance. Lights were set into the ground near the base of The Wall, and water would leak into various components. Because it was a custom-built system, the replacement parts and bulbs were difficult to order.

By 2004, after 20 years, it was time to update the lighting. An extensive study was conducted to design a system that would be both easier to maintain and would enhance the nighttime experiences at The Wall. The new $1 million lighting system was paid for by VVMF.

Some of the new lighting was to be set into the paving. But it was discovered that the giant concrete drainage trench had not only twisted, it had also settled and sunk several inches. Replacement drainage and paving systems were necessary. To protect the walls from errant equipment and flying debris, they had to be covered completely during the repairs. Work was done on one side and then the other, so that the entire Memorial did not have to be closed to the public.

During the construction process, as crews hoisted the old pavers, they discovered hundreds of small objects that had been left at The Wall and had fallen through the paving joints. “It was a very moving situation,” Cummings recalled. “Something as ordinary as picking up a sidewalk led to finding all of those items.” There were notes, religious medals, rings and trinkets. Each day, workers took great care to retrieve the items so they could be catalogued and added to the greater collection.

Caring for The Wall


Today, The Wall has a host of individuals and organizations that care about and for it. The National Park Service is its legal steward, while VVMF makes significant contributions to assist in its care. “The volunteers at The Wall are the ‘first responders,’” Cummings explained. They are intimately familiar with the Memorial and are usually the first to notice when there may be a problem. When they do, they inform NPS or VVMF, so that we can determine the best solution.

VVMF provides insurance for The Wall. In 2005, it paid more than $1 million to install the new lighting system. Annually, VVMF also pays to have names inscribed on The Wall. In these ways, VVMF has shared maintenance responsibilities with the National Park Service in a model public/private partnership.

A detailed care manual developed by Cooper-Lecky guides most of the general maintenance. Since the majority of the Memorial is a park setting, much of the maintenance involves lawn care. One year, dandelions threatened to take over the entire grounds. For the Three Servicemen, NPS waxes the statue each Memorial Day and Veterans Day to protect its bronze finish.

NPS organizes and schedules weekly washings of The Wall by groups of volunteers, from April to November when the temperatures are above freezing. The groups consist of student, veterans, and civic and community organizations from a variety of locations.

A few years after the Korean Memorial was completed, it too needed some love and care. On their own, some groups of volunteers have gone to the Korean Memorial to clean it, once they were done at The Wall. To Cummings, the tender care that spilled over to the Korean Memorial demonstrates the powerful, positive impact The Wall has had on its surrounding neighborhood and the community.