Thursday, October 22, 2009

D.C.'s Vietnam Veterans Memorial under repair

WASHINGTON — Workers began repairing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall on Wednesday as a private memorial fund took over maintenance of 13 acres from the National Park Service.

Over the next two weeks, workers are restoring the flagpole's bronze finish and its decorative base with five military branch insignias. They will also restore the bronze finish for five stands that hold directories that help people find names on the V-shaped memorial wall, which draws millions of visitors each year.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which built the memorial, also has repaired an irrigation system and is reseeding and sodding the grass. Last month, the group announced plans to pay for maintenance at the site because of scarce funding from the federal government.

They plan to raise more than $1 million to care for the memorial and grounds, including $500,000 to buy replacement granite if sections of the wall need to be replaced.

"Everybody has the same goal: We want it to look good," said fund spokeswoman Lisa Gough. "We want it to shine."

The memorial's bronze fixtures – including the flagpole and a statue of three soldiers – will be restored for the first time since they were installed more than 25 years ago, said James Cummings, who was part of the original architecture team.

The fund is trying to raise $100,000 to restore the statue by next year. The bronze is worn down and has turned green on the soldiers' noses and arms, Cummings said. Weather caused some of the damage, along with the hands of visitors.

"No one expected the memorial itself would have such an impact with the culture," Cummings said. "There's a plan now to take care of it."

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