This monument is actually the second remembrance of those killed in Vietnam to be erected on the Capitol campus. The first memorial honoring those Washingtonians killed in Vietnam was dedicated on November 11, 1982 by then-Governor John Spellman. The monument consisted of a scroll listing the names of the state’s Vietnam casualties encased in marble. Many surviving Vietnam Veterans were unhappy with this first memorial, and felt that the enclosed scroll 'entombed' the memory of their fallen comrades.
A group of Veterans soon began lobbying for a new memorial that would better honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. A number of other groups and individuals joined in the fundraising effort to erect a memorial displaying the names of Washingtonians killed or missing in action. Secretary of State Ralph Munro was particularly influential in rallying public and government support for the new memorial. Ultimately, the fundraising work was such a success that the $178,000 project was funded entirely by private means. A total of 1,466 individuals, groups, and corporations donated money—the majority in amounts less than $25. Shortly before the widely-attended dedication ceremony on Memorial Day, May 25, 1987, the memorial committee returned the money that had been donated by the state government.
The site selected for the memorial was a grassy knoll under a large shade tree. This area was chosen specifically because of the quiet solitude it affords. Seattle architect Kris Snyder of EDAW, Inc. of Seattle designed the memorial, which consists of a semi-circular, green granite wall stretching partially around a forty-five foot base. The wall represents the circle of life, and the top of the wall rises and falls in a rolling course, symbolizing the highs and lows that occur in our existence. The wall runs unimpaired except for a large crack in the shape of North and South Vietnam. The cut symbolizes the break in the circle of life caused by the war.
Etched into the wall are the names of the 1,123 Washingtonians killed or missing in the war, positioned in such a way that they can be touched and read by all, including children and those in wheelchairs. The names are listed chronologically by date of death from July, 1963 to May, 1975 beginning on the right side of the wall and continuing left around the memorial. To read the names, begin in panel 1, top of the right column; then move to the top of the second column reading right to left and top to bottom. A small cross is engraved next to the names of those who remain missing in action. There are small holes next to all the names so that mementos may be left in remembrance. All items left are collected and placed in the state archives.