The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was the first of the D.C. monuments that I can remember being erected in my lifetime.  At the time, it was hugely controversial which, I imagine, is not unique in comparison to older monuments on the D.C. Mall, I just remember this controversy.  The winning design's architect was young and inexperienced... Maya Lin was still a student at Yale when she submitted the design, gasp, shock.  Many thought the unconventional design was hideous and ill-befitting those whom it intended to memorialize, calling it the "black gash of shame."  I'm not sure why I remember this so keenly since it was completed all the way back in 1982, when my main concerns in life included memorizing all the words to Safety Dance and how I could get one of those asymmetrical haircuts past my parents.  I honestly didn't really understand the vitriolic opinions, both pro and con.  Then in the early 90s when I visited D.C. for the first time, I walked in silence past all those names and was struck by how completely appropriate it was... grandiose and understated all at the same time.  

Aldous Huxley said, "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is Music."  

I don't necessarily disagree with him... but The Wall does a pretty darn good job of it too.