Statue to honor women in service in Vietnam era

November 12, 1990|By Ariane de Vogue | Ariane de Vogue,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- A statue of a female veteran surrounded by a mist of steam was unveiled yesterday as the design for a national monument to honor the estimated 10,000 women who served in Vietnam.

The work will be a collaboration of artists Eileen Barry and Robert L. Desmond and will be placed on the Mall near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall.

Washington's latest monument is the brainchild of the Vietnam Women's Memorial Project, which announced a competition in August to design a memorial structure.

Diane Carlson Evans, founder of the VWMP and a former captain in the Army Nurse Corps, unveiled the designs yesterday, saying: "Finally women vets will come home to be with our brother vets at the wall."

Ms. Evans, who served one year in Vietnam, has worked seven years to get the project approved.

"The artists have truly captured and responded to the spirit of all the women who served during the Vietnam era," she said. "This memorial will evoke a sense of place and promise."

A panel of five judges chosen by the project made the unusual decision to select two winners -- one proposing a statue and one offering a landscape design -- because they wanted to use elements of both plans.

Mr. Desmond, a landscaping architect from Arlington, Mass., submitted an abstract design of a large, square white stone on the ground containing 240 water jets that will spew steam into the air.

Ms. Barry, a sculptor from East Islip, N.Y., designed a bronze figure of a woman in fatigues holding her helmet and looking toward the sky. The figure will face the memorial wall and the untitled statues of three fighting men -- the two other Vietnam memorials located in the area.

"I felt a passion for this project" said Ms. Barry, who spent months interviewing female veterans to learn more about their struggle.

"I'm a flag-waver. . . . To think we waited this long to create a memorial for the women scares me."

The project, which Ms. Evans founded because she felt that the role of women who served as volunteers in Vietnam was largely unnoticed, suffered many setbacks.

In 1987, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts rejected her initial proposal to build a monument. It was after congressional legislation that the Commission of Fine Arts and two other panels -- the National Capital Planning Commission and the National Capital Memorial Commission -- finally approved the site for the memorial.

The monument's design needs the approval of the three commissions. The VWMP, which has raised about $1 million for the project, will need to raise approximately $1.5 million more to execute the memorial.

Opponents of the project say the memorial wall, which bears the names of 58,175 people who died or remain listed as missing in action (including eight nurses), honors both men and women.

Others say women who served in other capacities never got proper recognition for their heroic deeds.

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