A former Army nurse who served in Vietnam was not amused by the outrage-invokingviral photo that provoked outrage by showing children climbing the Vietnam Women's Memorial — a memorial she spearheaded the effort to create.
Diane Carlson Evans founded the project to create the memorial in 1984, and it was ultimately dedicated at its Washington D.C., location in 1993. The picture — which along with the two children depicted onlookers watching in apparent disapproval — displayed what she regarded as inappropriate behavior for a solemn site.
"I hope parents and caretakers will use the memorial as a teaching opportunity, not a jungle gym," Evans, still the founder and president of the Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation, told Army Times in an email.
"We will not put up a chain or a barrier keeping veterans and visitors at a distance because of a few thoughtless people but hope that all visitors conduct themselves with dignity and reverence while viewing a symbol of those brave men and women who served and sacrificed for our Nation," Evans wrote.
Evans said many had contacted her to ask for her take on the controversy. She cast the issue as a broader question of behavior to be expected of people, "including children," at memorials and historic sites in general.
The reactions to the photo have been mixed. Some, including purported veterans and their relatives, felt carefree children honor the freedom that veterans fought for.
But many echoed Evan's stance that this incident fell short of what would be regarded as "proper and respectful." Some said that children can play anywhere else; these memorials are for reflection, often for people who experienced catastrophic losses.
The man who snapped the provoking picture, Matthew Munson, told a North Carolina Fox 8 local news station that veterans appeared hurt as they watched parents encourage the kids to climb on the statue for a picture.
Most who were critical laid their blame on the parents. Munson was quoted as saying they were off to the side laughing at the sight of the playful children as veterans gathered and, he said, looked past the children to the parents.