"They were going to look at war, the red animal – war, the blood-swollen god."

Remembering the Dead: Indiana War Memorial Plaza

In Uncategorized, War Museums and Memorials on April 29, 2011 at 2:42 pm

I’ve become fascinated, and sometimes horrified, by the ways we choose to remember our wars and the men and women who died fighting them.  During a recent ten-day stay in Indianapolis to work on my play, Red Badge Variations, or The Red Animal, at the Bonderman New Play Prize and Symposium at Indiana Repertory Theater, I played hooky to explore the city’s War Memorial Plaza and Museum.

I’ll write about the Museum in a future post; today I want to show you the plaza.

Spring had popped during the past week, and Indy’s gorgeous flowering trees hovered like low-lying clouds along the pathways.

 The park is dotted with simple and moving memorials to Indiana soldiers who died in wars of the last century.  Oh, there are a few grandiose, martial eagles

and death-worshiping sarcophagi, such as this gloomy, star-studded shrine.

But I was deeply moved by the memorials to soldiers who died in Vietnam, World War II and Korea,

and particularly by excerpts from soldiers’ letters home that are cut into the stone, followed by the date of death. There is a home-spun quality to the beautifully selected letters with their sometimes idiosyncratic spellings.

 Some soldiers convey hard-won insights.

Others write of the brutal facts of life at war.

And others convey a bravado all the more poignant for its transparency.

By allowing the letters to stand as is, without comment or correction, these memorials remind us of the irreplaceable individuality of the soldiers we send into battle, and of the ripples of suffering that each death sends out into the world.

As of today, the death toll for American service members in our current war in Afghanistan stands at 1,540.

Story by Melissa Cooper

  1. Thank the stars someone is taking the time to do such postings on the web. These are very moving, often quite painful letters, thoughts sent home from soldiers truly speaking their minds before their deaths in the field. We need to read these notes, words and not forget that there are wars about still being unfortunately fought, calling for terrible sacrifices on so many.

  2. Melissa

    I am the teacher and researcher, who with my many students over the past 26 years found and selected the letters and names for the World War II, Korean and Vietnam Memorials in Indy. The stories we have found of these heroes are endless. We have located the photos of 1285+ photos of the ones from Indiana who died in Vietnam. I am also a recent veteran our recent War Against Terrorism in Afghanistan. ushistoryman@yahoo.com

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