The Missing Piece Project envisions a nationwide, coordinated, mass dedication of objects at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of Washington DC (the Wall) by Vietnamese, Lao, Hmong, Cambodian, and other communities still affected today by the legacy of the conflict in Southeast Asia, allowing these communities to reclaim their past experiences, history, and memories, on their own terms. The collective dedication will take place on the 45th anniversary of the “end” of the Vietnam War on April 30, 2020. A pilot version of the project occured on April 30, 2018, with a small dedication of objects from the VietUnity-Los Angeles community. In coming years we aim to expand the project to be more inclusive of the diverse communities affected by the war.
The Wall has been hailed as a profound site of healing for those who visit. Visitors often leave items at the Wall dedicated to fallen loved ones, or in an attempt to let go of traumatic experiences. Since its opening in 1982, national park rangers have collected all items left at the Wall, which are catalogued and stored in a national archive. However, during a visit to the archive in 2015, with the help of archive staff, we found only 6 items that had been left at the Wall by members of the Vietnamese refugee community, out of hundreds of thousands. Why has the Vietnamese refugee community not been included in this public memorial? What other communities who have been affected by the conflict in Southeast Asia are missing from this history? Has there been an explicit (the names of your dead are not here) and/or implicit (this space is not for you, don’t leave your items here) exclusion of these voices from this national memorial? This project carves out space for the collective engagement of diverse voices affected by the war in Southeast Asia in this public, nationally recognized memorial.