Why 'The Wall' Will Send You a Rubbing of a Vietnam Veteran's Name

A Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund volunteer creates a rubbing of an etched name using charcoal. The rubbings are requested by those who can't visit "the Wall." (VVMF/Twitter)

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall has long been a gathering place for those affected by the war, those who lost a loved one fighting the war, and for veterans looking for comfort and fellowship.

Also known simply as "The Wall," the monument is etched with the names of 58,279 service members whose deaths were a result of the war. Visitors can find the name of a loved one and often use paper and charcoal to make a rubbing of the etching in The Wall's surface.

When someone can't make it to The Wall, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF), the nonprofit that raised the funds to build the memorial, will send a volunteer to make a rubbing of the name.

The organization temporarily halted the service due to the COVID-19 pandemic; for a time, no volunteers were available to make rubbings. Since March 15, volunteers have fulfilled more than 400 requests.

The pandemic makes it difficult for veterans to gather at the wall to find fellowship. The youngest Vietnam vet is estimated to be at least 60 years old today, making this era of veterans among the most vulnerable to the virus.

Chronic conditions affecting Vietnam veterans, especially the myriad cancers and respiratory issues associated with Agent Orange exposure, will keep them from visiting the wall.

Veterans and their families who can't make a pilgrimage to The Wall or don't want to risk being in large groups can once again get a rubbing of their loved ones' names, just by making a request online at the VVMF website. As of Sept. 6, 2020, volunteers had made more than 400 of these solemn keepsakes.

(Vietname Veterans Memorial Fund/Twitter)

There is no charge for receiving a name rubbing, but the VVMF asks for patience. According to the website, requests can take as long as 90 days to fulfill.

In order to receive a rubbing of a name, the requestor needs to provide the first, middle and last name on the wall, as well as the panel number and the location on the east or west side of the wall (if known). The VVMF also needs to know which row the name is on.

Names on The Wall are not listed alphabetically; instead, they are listed chronologically by the date of death. Only names whose death or missing date are on the same day are listed alphabetically. The VVMF website also carries photos for most of the names on the Wall. 

There are resources online to help find this information. The website ViewtheWall.com is searchable. There is also a Vietnam Memorial app in the Apple app store and on Google Play that is also searchable.

Request a name rubbing from the VVMF here.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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