What Happens to the Vietnam Veterans Gifts Left at the Wall?

vietnam veterans memorial
It’s common to leave small tokens and Vietnam veterans gifts at the memorial wall. But what happens to them at the end of the day? Take a look to find out.

The Vietnam War was a time of extreme unrest, division, and tension in the United States.

For over a decade, the country stood divided as more than 58,000 troops went missing or fell to the war effort while many more still fought for survival. The effects of the war lingered long after the ceasefire, and some conflict over the matter still exists today.

One thing much of the public can agree on, though, is the feeling of community, respect, and support felt at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Every day, Vietnam veterans gifts line the wall. They range from flowers, notes, lost belongings, and more. To understand the impact and importance of the gifts, we are walking you through the history of the wall and where the gifts go once collected.

History of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

The wall was dedicated on November 13, 1982. It was the result of three year’s work of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, in the hopes of beginning the healing process for the American public.

More than $8,000,000 was raised by the American public and over 1,400 design ideas were submitted to VVMF.

Today, the wall is like a “park within a park“. It stands as a series of polished black granite panels with over 58,000 names. Each name is etched in chronological order according to casualty dates, a gesture to represent the war as a timeline of individual sacrifices.

Common Items Left Over the Years

Every day, Vietnam veterans gifts line the wall.

In the early years of the wall, many items left behind could be tied to fallen heroes. They were things brought by family members or close friends; things that distinctly tied those in mourning to the people they were remembering.

Some items included personal notes and letters, dog tags, pajamas, and of course, American flags. It is still common to see old pictures of those who went to war or flowers to honor their memory. Sometimes you see items connected to current events. Graduation tassels, drawings from grandchildren, teddy bears, cards, and bullet casings are there, too. There are also small items like packs of cigarettes and bottle caps.

By far, the largest item left at the wall was the Harley from Wisconsin in 1995. It was a gift in memory of the 37 soldiers from Wisconsin who didn’t make it home.

Still, no matter how big or small – each item means something. It is a way of saying, “thank you”, or, “I miss you”, or, “you are not forgotten.”


Author Ronny Ymbras leaves a copy of Fallen Never Forgotten at the wall
Memorial Day 2017

Where Are the Gifts Now

Every day, the Vietnam veterans gifts are collected by National Park Service. Rangers store everything in boxes, which are then placed in a temporary storage room in the Washington Monument.

The final destination is the Museum Resource Center – the holy grail of 40 historic collections under National Park Services.

There, the gifts stand amongst Clara Barton’s furniture and Frederick Douglass’s piano. Everything is cataloged and stored in acid-free boxes kept in temperature-controlled rooms.

They are, after all, national treasures.

A Collection of Memories

The gifts are a phenomenon no one expected to happen. It wasn’t part of the plan, but the collection of over 400,000 items left behind has helped bring the nation together.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has recently announced plans to open a virtual collection of items left behind. The collection will be hosted at an education center with roughly 4,000-6,000 items.

This will be the largest group of items left at the wall made available to the public at once…

To learn more about Vietnam Vvteran memorials and the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, order your copy of “Fallen Never Forgotten”, today.

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