A Monument for the Living

The Vietnam Women’s Memorial stands as a testament to the service and sacrifice of American women in the Vietnam War.

Weighing one ton and standing over six feet tall, the life-size bronze sculpture honors the 265,000 women who volunteered to serve in the Vietnam War, the majority as nurses caring for the wounded. Sculptor Glenna Goodacre reflects on the vision that guided her:

“My desire to create a lasting tribute to the American women serving in Vietnam is founded upon my deep respect for each of them, and my heartfelt prayer for their ‘healing and hope’…The standing woman looks up, in search of a med-i-vac helicopter or, perhaps, in search of help from God.

The kneeling figure has been called ‘the heart and soul’ of the piece because so many vets see themselves in her. She stares at an empty helmet, her posture reflecting her despair, frustrations, and all the horrors of war. The soldier’s face is half-covered by a bandage, creating an anonymous figure with which veterans can identify. Even though he is wounded, he will live. I want this to be a monument for the living.”

In the journey to the cross, Jesus meets his mother. We see Jesus not simply as a man struggling alone to his death, but as a child, a beloved. Mary’s pain of witness to the torture, humiliation, and murder of her son reframes who is suffering in the Stations and how.

Mary, the women of the Vietnam memorial, and all others who bear witness and suffer alongside may find their strength, compassion, sorrow, and pain reflected in this sculpture and narrative. In shining a light on their story, this focus may uncover hidden subjects of suffering and bring healing to their journeys toward hope.

This reflection is part of the Stations of the Cross art exhibit in Washington D.C. The first station can be found at the United Methodist Building with art work and a reflection by Ndume Olatushani.

Editor's Note: The image of the statue is available through the Library of Congress. You can listen to the full reflection here