Beyond the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial, sits a giant slab of granite.  The unambiguous yet heartbreaking wall that is the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial.

I visited the wall for the first time last week. As I walked past the statue of the three soldiers and came face to face with the block of granite, I stopped dead in my tacks. It took my breath away. Over fifty five thousand names are etched in the highly reflective wall. Each one representing a person, and a greater story. It was overpowering.

The most thought-provoking part of the whole experience was the silence. Nobody said a word, and there were easily seventy or so people paying their respects.

As I walked further along the wall, it began to engulf me. The names rose higher and higher; they became all the more innumerable.

This place puts war and its losses in perspective. It doesn’t matter what rank someone was or how good of a soldier they were; each name is of equal size on the wall, because they are all equal in making the ultimate sacrifice for our country.