Lined by 144 panels of reflective black granite and carefully etched with more than 58,000 names, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors those who lost their lives in one of our nation’s most polarizing conflicts – the Vietnam War.

The Wall is both symbolic in design and a starting point for deep conversations about the sacrifices of war while on a school trip to Washington, D.C. 

The innovative design by architect Maya Lin brings your group into a solemn and contemplative space. As you walk down into its depths, you feel yourself pulled earthward into the loss of so many lives as the name panels grow ever higher.

(Learn more by watching our video about the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.)

As you stand face-to-face with the wail, read the individual names and see your own reflection. Look down at your feet and you might see mementos left behind by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial’s many visitors – letters, keepsakes, flags.

Feel free to pick them up for a closer inspection, but remember to put them back when you’re done. Years ago, a fully functioning motorcycle was even left at the Wall. 

Back in the wooded area to the south, you’ll find two statuary groupings. The Three Servicemen is the first. These figures symbolize the foot soldiers who fought and died in southeast Asia. The other is the Vietnam Women’s Memorial – three women tending to a wounded soldier. Their names are Faith, Hope, and Love. See if you can identify them based on their sculptures alone.

During the day, volunteers in yellow shirts and hats can help you find names; they also have materials to loan if you wish to do a rubbing. Please take note that the Memorial can be a sometimes magnet for panhandlers attempting to pass themselves off as either veterans or those raising money for veteran charities. These types of solicitations are always illegal.

The SCHOOL TRIP SPOTLIGHT is written by NationsClassroom’s expert, licensed guides and features exciting attractions from the most popular student travel destinations on the historic East Coast.

For more information please Browse Our Tours.

Published November 2017, updated July 2021