U.S. could limit collection of items left at Vietnam War memorial

WASHINGTON The U.S. National Park Service is proposing to limit the commemorative items it keeps from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where it has collected more than 400,000 tribute objects, the agency said on Tuesday.

The two-acre (0.8 hectare) site on Washington’s National Mall receives about 3 million visitors a year. It is best known for the sunken Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, where the names of more than 58,000 service personnel who died from 1959 to 1975 are engraved.

Among the 400,000 items left behind since the memorial was dedicated in 1982 are a motorcycle, a general’s stars, eyeglasses, military ribbons and medals, money, flags, helmets and commemorative bracelets, according to the non-profit Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

The National Park Service said in a statement that it was seeking public comment about changing the criteria for items it would keep in its permanent Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection. The deadline for submitting comments is March 10.

“By refining the scope of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection, we can ensure that our energy and resources will preserve items with a direct and specific relationship to veterans of the Vietnam War,” said Gay Vietzke, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

The proposed changes call for the National Park Service to keep only personal artifacts of those personnel whose names appear on the memorial, Vietnam War military service items, and protest and advocacy materials related to the war.

Most of the items left at the site now have no direct connection to Vietnam veterans or the war, the agency said.

The collection would not keep such objects as patches and reproduction dog tags, items that are perishable or a safety hazard, and those relating to movements or wars other than the Vietnam War.

In cases where the collection has a large sample of a particular type of item, only a representative number will be kept.

The Memorial Collection will also include items about the site’s architecture and materials about the planning and construction of the site, the agency said.

Ann Mills-Griffiths, the chairman and chief executive of the National League of POW/MIA Families, an advocacy group founded during the war, said it was reasonable that the park agency would try to limit the items it kept.

The collection “should relate in some way to the purpose of the memorial or there’s really not much value in collecting it,” she said.

The site includes the Three Servicemen Memorial and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by Grant McCool)

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