Vandalism is a serious issue in the realm of both public and private monuments and memorials. Both internationally famous and locally unknown landmarks and memory sites have been defaced and demolished by vandals and those looking to create trouble and turmoil time and again, and the pair of incidents occurring on the faces of the Morrissey Blvd. Vietnam War Memorial are no different. Whether it be swastikas or simple graffiti vandalism is a serious issue plaguing sites such as this, and one that takes time and effort to counteract.
There is not much remarkable nor largely acknowledged about the Morrissey Boulevard Vietnam War Memorial outside of its history with vandalism, and this marks a common trend among many small memorial sites. People, or more accurately the media only begin to care when tragedy strikes and a new story can come to light. This phenomenon is understandable however it is quite saddening to see such a new and historically relevant memorial be left out of public attention outside of when it is defaced. Despite being ignored in itself the memorial is still culturally relevant, not for its value as a singular monument but for its value as a part of the national and international memory of the Vietnam War.
No war nor catastrophe should ever be forgotten, and the most effective way to keep those memories alive is to localize them. The Dorchester Vietnam War memorial is a localized memorial for one of the most culturally relevant wars in the history of the United States of America. In keeping with the localization across Massachusetts of memorialization of the war, the Dorchester memorial creates and nurtures a more intimate image of the war and its influence upon the town. The lives lost have a greater effect upon those viewing the monument, especially in those generations most close to the war chronologically and generationally, as those on the list were friends, family, and neighbors.
This consciousness, despite being all that the names on the memorial itself offer, is only one part of a comprehensive memory of the war. A diverse range of memories and education is also essential to the full memorialization of these lives lost as to truly understand their sacrifice it is needed that one fully understands the scope of the war itself. As a memorial, the Morrissey Boulevard Vietnam War Memorial is unremarkable, and yet, it remains relevant for its use in cultural and local memory of the Vietnam War and for its role as a shining example of the tragedy focused selective acknowledgement of these minor category of memorials by mass media, and even by citizens themselves.
The backstory of the memorial is largely unremarkable in its founding, and the much more notable backstory is of course that of the Vietnam War itself. The memorial was created by Dorchester residents including one Joe Zinck. It was created, as stated previously, to commemorate the 79 fallen soldiers who were residing in Dorchester previous to the war. Being an intimate and local memorial there is no great scope nor ambition in its design. It is full and forward. All 79 names are displayed clearly and cleanly upon the primary pillar facing the road. The true ambition of the monument is that of memorializing these dead and the war itself and its consequences; one stated at the foot of the monument in a single phrase, Through us they will live forever.
This quote summarizes the meaning not only of this memorial in itself but memorialization as a practice and a concept. That kind of plainly stated largely applicable sentiment is what makes the Dorchester Vietnam War memorial most interesting. From its founding to its white supremacist and fascist vandals, it is largely unremarkable and generic, but as a symbol of refusal to forget the war and a refusal of the media to cover it it stands as a righteous and surprisingly integral part of the national and international ecosystem of memorials, not only for the Vietnam War, or any war, but for catastrophes and tragedies themselves.