‘Little Brats’ Playing on Vietnam Memorial Evoke Outrage

Jennifer O'Neill

Kids climbing on veterans memorial prompts public outcry. Photo by MatthewM.Art/Facebook.

A photo by artist Matthew Munson has ignited upset over the behavior of a couple of children who recently visited the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. 

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The snap, posted on Facebook on Tuesday, depicts two kids climbing on the 6-foot-8-inch statue near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in what Munson describes as a “sobering” moment. “I managed to take some decent photos and even a very powerful one of two little brats climbing over war memorial right in front of a veteran,” the Ohio artist wrote. He added in another post, “…The parents were literally laughing. It actually drew a crowd of spectators and the parents realized how evil they were being and quickly took off.” 

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“There [weren’t] a lot of people,” Munson tells WHNT News 19 about the minutes preceding his shot. “Then a big group of people showed up just as the kids were treating the memorial more like a jungle gym … Then the veterans showed up, and they looked hurt more than angry. They were quiet.” Reaction to the image posted on Reddit the same day with the title, “Parents letting their children play on the ‘Vietnam Women’s Memorial’ right in front of veterans,” was anything but. 

More than 3,000 comments were posted in less than 24 hours — many of them expressing outrage about the disrespect shown to the veterans. The statue, which was dedicated in 1993, was the first memorial honoring women in the military. A poll in one news outlet, Alabama’s Al.com, found that 92 percent of more than 2,500 respondents deemed it “disrespectful” for children to climb and play on the monument. 

“I think the parents should have explained to their kids the meaning of the memorial and the heroics of women involved in the crisis, and save the climbing and playing for a jungle gym,” Munson added to WHNT. “Certain memorials and statues are more positive and welcoming to kids and parents expressing their freedom and good vibes, other memorials (this one) focuses on the tragedies of war and how certain groups of people played a big role in helping others recover from it. Having children step all over a wounded warrior is not an appropriate way to express the freedom our veterans fought for, in my opinion.”

Etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore tells Yahoo Parenting she agrees that the children’s parents should have reined them in. “The children were simply doing what most children do,” says The Protocol School of Palm Beach, Inc. founder. “It is the parents’ responsibility to teach their children to honor memorials and respect public structures.” 

Irked bystanders should have felt free to speak up, Whitmore says. “An upset witness might say something like, ‘Excuse me madam, but would you please keep your children off of the memorial?’” 

Just keep your cool, she adds. “Speak politely and use this as an opportunity to teach children, and adults, to respect history.” Not to mention, public responsibility to care for our national treasures. “Touching, standing on, and climbing on a memorial over time will only wear it down,” says Whitmore. “Tourists and locals alike should not touch memorials.” 

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