New York State Funeral Directors Association

It’s the biggest tombstone I’ve ever seen – thousands of names on glossy, black granite slabs – all representing siblings, parents, loved ones who never returned home from the Vietnam War.

Each name on the Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall represents an American who did what was asked of them.

Most died thousands of miles away from their homeland. Many are still missing.

I approached the wall slowly to take in the view.

What at first appeared to be whitish designs on the shiny stone gradually came into focus – 58,272 names.

These names are family members and friends of people who still mourn them.

Visitors moved slowly along the walkway, some pausing to peer deeper into the blackness.

It was clear many of them recognized names etched into the granite.

Some stopped at several sections, pointing out names.Some guests got help from volunteers so they could trace out a name – a way to bring a souvenir of the visit back home.

For somebody like me – born when the Vietnam War was already underway – it isn’t easy understanding what all these people went through.

A few tales from veterans, historic photos and footage, movies and books offer a glimpse into the day faced by many Vietnam Veterans.

But only a glimpse.As the years since Vietnam turn into decades and the survivors who made it home grow older, it seems more and more important to look back at what these folks went through.

I’d encourage anybody to take some time viewing old photos and footage from the Vietnam War.

Then stop by the Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall and witness the names of thousands of people who endured so much before dying so far away from home.

It’s no substitute for visiting a cemetery where these Veterans now rest in peace – but it’s a thoughtful way to pay respects, collectively, to so many who lost their lives doing what their country asked them to.


EdsPhotoEdward Munger Jr.
Communications & Social Media Specialist
NYS Funeral Directors Association