The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is washed every week by groups of veterans who volunteer with the goal of maintaining the memorial's beauty out of respect for those who died during the war. The group of veterans responsible for cleaning the memorial the week of April 9 was joined by another individual: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
The memorial was dedicated on Nov. 13, 1982, according to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund's website. It contains the names of over 58,000 individuals who were killed or reported missing over the course of the Vietnam War. It currently attracts more than 5.6 million visitors every year.
According to the Independent Journal Review, the wall is open to the public 24 hours a day, and visitors are allowed to touch it. Visitors are even encouraged to use paper and pencils to take stencils of the names that are engraved on the wall should they wish to do so.
The fact that the memorial receives so much traffic on a daily basis, in addition to the fact that it is located outside, has, of course, meant that it is subject to getting dirty.
According to The Washington Post, back in 1998, Jan Scruggs of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund became dissatisfied with the job that the National Park Service was doing in maintaining the wall. He handed out toothbrushes to a group of Vietnam Veterans who were visiting the memorial from Wisconsin in protest of the poor job he believed the Park Service had been doing.
Since that time, the National Park Service has begun working with different groups in order to organize weekly cleanings of the memorial during high-traffic seasons, reports the Independent Journal Review. The groups arrive early in the morning before most tourists show up and spray down the wall before scrubbing it down and polishing it.
On the morning of April 9, it was the Virginia and Maryland Chapters of the Rolling Thunder, a biker club that consists of mainly veterans, who were responsible for the weekly cleaning of the wall. What made this day particularly notable was that they were joined by the secretary of the interior.
An appointee of President Donald Trump, Zinke was confirmed by Congress as the new Interior Secretary on March 1, reports the Los Angeles Times. According to the Independent Journal Review, Zinke has taken a "hands-on" approach since his confirmation. For example, on March 15, he spent the day shoveling snow off of the Lincoln Memorial.
Zinke arrived at the Vietnam Memorial around 6 a.m. and aided the members of the Rolling Thunder as they cleaned the wall.
"Rolling Thunder is here to wash the wall," he said when asked about why he was at the memorial. "I'm here to help them."