Written by By Ken Bruce, CNN
How do you keep track of all the names on the Wall?
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is a powerful symbol of individual and collective loss. The names of the 58,220 men and women who died in Vietnam hang from the perimeter fence by sheer power of their numbers.
They hang there in perpetuity, because they were able to achieve immortality in the life they lost when they gave their lives for the country.
The Wall holds the names of men and women, not just those lost on an individual level, but it holds the names of the nation they fought for. They were never forgotten.
In June 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund started a system of virtual wall markers in order to fill in some of the gaps when people visited the Wall. Virtual walls were originally branded as “Stone Marbles.” They were flat cube-shaped cubes. A small black marble would be placed on a surface or below the map before being inserted into a hole. You’d place the marble over the marker to erase it. The stones were put together at the New Jersey National Cemetery.
The names of American War Veterans who died as a result of fighting in combat in different theaters of the World War Two era are engraved on stones set into a public space outside a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Berlin, Germany. Credit: STRINGER/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The virtual wall markers were also often placed at war memorials and cemeteries. And ultimately, the Wall became the official resting place for the virtual markers.
Many people don’t realize that if you plan to visit the Wall, you are literally there in the physical presence of the virtual wall markers. The privilege of visiting a place marked by such vast memories extends beyond the physical experience of a war memorial. Visiting places that hold this kind of memorial honors the fallen and it honors the dead soldiers.
The phrase “I can’t bring myself to think about” seems to define the pain that people feel as they lie at the foot of the Wall in their remembrance of the dead. How do you keep track of the names on the Wall?
Wreaths at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Credit: Jewel Samad/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
So how do you keep track of all the names on the Wall?
One step is to periodically visit the Wall and to have the opportunity to see the names on the wall. After visiting, you should try to do a scan of the names in a database. The process is simple. Just download the free version of Google Googles to have your computer running, plug in your mobile phone number and select the “scan the names” option. From the main menu, go to “scans.”
Next to the list of scan options, on the home screen, press the “scan the names” button and read the list of choices. You will be asked to select the number of locations that you would like to scan. I scanned the Wall in Virginia last year and we did it successfully, with complete accuracy.
It’s not hard to find the names of the dead soldiers. You may need to pay close attention to the names of those serving in the National Guard, or volunteers. They’re usually listed as “E” or “D.”
You can also search by name and state. Another way to keep track of them is to monitor social media.