WASHINGTON -- The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Wednesday unveiled a wood model of its controversial monument to U.S. soldiers killed in Vietnam and said the actual memorial will be dedicated on Veterans Day 1982.
Design of the memorial for the 57,692 American dead and missing - two spare and stark black marble slabs intersecting at an 130-degree angle and bearing the names of the dead and missing -- has generated a great deal of controversy as the project has taken shape.
But Jan Scruggs, the originator of the memorial fund, said he was convinced the memorial 'if built by the American people, will have a positive psychological impact not only on veterans but on the nation.'
'There is a lot of unfinished business left over for this country because of Vietnam,' he said. 'I wish the memorial could magically erase those difficulties, but of course it can't. It can help.'
Memorial fund officials said they have raised about $2.5 million of the $7.7 million they project as the cost of the granite memorial.
The 10-foot tall, 400-foot long memorial will be built near the Lincoln Memorial and be clearly visible from the Washington Monument. In comparison, the Washington Monument is 555 feet 5 inches high.
Officials of the fund denied charges that the memorial will not mention the Vietnam War and that few if any Vietnam veterans took part in creating the memorial.
They made public a 'prologue' inscription for the monument that reads:
'In honor of the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States who served in the Vietnam War. The names of those who gave their lives and of those who remain missing are inscribed in the order that they were taken from us.'
An epilogue, at the end of the list of names, reads: 'Our nation remembers the courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country of its Vietnam veterans. This memorial was built through the private donations from the American people. Dedicated November 11, 1982.'
Marine Col. Donald E. Schaet (Ret.), a Vietnam veteran, told a news conference, 'Vietnam veteran participation has been an integral part of the design process from the start.'
Retired Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Hayes III, who lost a son in Vietnam, and country music singer and Gold Star mother Jan Howard, unveiled the model of the memorial for reporters and photographers.
'This is not a monument to a war, but to those Americans who served,' Hayes said. 'It is a monument to gallantry; it names all those who died there.'
'Remembering,' he said, 'will help each of us do our part a little bit better. It is unpolitical, well-sited, in harmony with its surroundings. It is a serene, living memorial.'
'It is important to finish this project promptly, as part of the unfinished business of that war.'
Scruggs said the fund committee planned to break ground for the memorial in February 1982.
'Though it will never bring back those who died, though it will never erase the scars visible and invisible, it will help to ease the hurt,' Mrs. Howard said.