From 1955 to 1975, more than 3 million Americans fought in Vietnam. Almost 60,000 U.S. soldiers were killed, and more than 150,000 wounded in combat. Almost every community across the United States, from large cities to small farm towns, felt the toll of the Vietnam War. Spokane was no exception. The hinterlands lost 300 beloved lives. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in front of you was erected to honor those 300 soldiers who called the Inland Northwest home. According to an article in the Spokane Chronicle in 1983, the sculpture was originally envisioned to hold twice the amount of names then you see before you. The names of these soldiers would have come from Eastern Washington, North Idaho, Western Montana and Southern British Columbia.
This bronze soldier gazing across the park weights 400 pounds and sits atop a 3,400 pound granite base. According to the artist, the letter in the soldier's hand is meant for onlookers to "fill in the blank sheet." To raise funds for the art piece, collection canisters were placed in local business like 7-Eleven stores and Pizza Huts. It was a three-year community effort to raise the $95,000 commission. This hefty amount included labor and material for the memorial. It was not until a competitive bid for the Memorial was offered from the neighboring city of Portland did Spokane raise the needed amount to erect the sculpture. The victorious Spokane dedicated the piece on November 11, 1985.
The artist of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is Deborah Copenhaver-Fellows. Copenhaver-Fellows is renowned for her work with metals, specifically for her technique of manipulating bronze and silver. Her sculptures can be admired all over the United States including the Capitol Building, the Bing Crosby statue at Gonzaga University, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Olympia.