By Jug Varner

Maybe its just me, but I was totally offended by the trappings of tents and souvenirs hawkers when I last visited the beautiful Vietnam Memorial near the Lincoln Monument .

Granted, the sale of this merchandise supposedly goes to Vietnam Veterans groups - the percentage of which may be suspect - but that is not a good enough reason to turn it into the likes of a flea market. To my mind it adds a “commercial” stigma and junky appearance that demeans the dignity and solemnity of a monument to those who died for our country.

First of all, I can't believe that the National Park Service would condone this, even under the guise of “free speech,” let alone issue a continuing “public gathering” permit to allow this eyesore to exist. Surely there are other areas in the immediate vicinity but away from these memorials where such groups can set up their wares, pass out their pamphlets, march, protest and demonstrate if they must, rather than in the midst of two of the most revered spots in the capital city. And why are they still protesting anyw
ay? I thought building the memorial settled that.

Secondly, I should think those who fought not only in the war, but for recognition of their sacrifices, would above all else want to preserve the esthetic quality of this memorial.

During this visit to Washington, I was honored to meet and talk with Frederick E. Hart, the sculptor who created the Three Soldiers statue at the Vietnam Memorial. Learning about the long and painstaking thought and effort he put into this beautiful work of art made be doubly appreciate what has been done there to remember those who served in that unpopular conflict. I hate to see it eroded.

Speaking of erosion, our capital city and its unrivaled architecture, statuary and broad streets, was always considered our nation's shining star. Now, street people, winos, graffiti and other elements are tarnishing it beyond belief. Those who live and work there may have learned to ignore it, instead of doing something about it, but we who live elsewhere are aghast at the gradual erosion of Pierre L'Enfant's grand design.