War is always in the background of the American history and film course that my colleague and I are team teaching this semester. We can’t ignore it, nor should we, even though our focus is mostly on social changes and movements since the end of World War II. At a war’s end our course begins; then another war starts, this time the Cold War, which wasn’t really all that cold, with fighting in Korea and later in Vietnam. And so on. At any time it seems that war is somewhere rumbling and somehow shaping our lives.
The class is moving toward the Vietnam War era. So I looked to visit the replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Second Life (SL); apparently it’s no longer there. I did, however, find six other U.S. war memorials, including two 911 memorials. The first five below are listed in the SL Destination Guide under Memorials.
The World War II Memorial Park is “a scaled replica of the original World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.” (SL landmark). This careful and caring re-creation is especially beautiful at sunset. Under its reflection ponds is Memorial Mall, which includes interactive resource posters for veteran information, a tomb of an unknown soldier, a store for veteran avatar supplies, and a kind of airplane museum with planes for sale.
The WW II Memorial is also the home of the Flying Tigers, “the largest aviation group in SL.” A notecard offers free group membership and says: “Inspired by the efforts of the original Flying Tigers, we fly to honor all veterans and are dedicated to pursuing camaraderie, goodwill, cooperation and harmony within the SL aviation community.” The message ends this way: “Whether we’re flying combat, hosting events for veterans or flying the grid, we aim to have fun!”
The Path to Freedom memorial “was made in honor of all who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and the millions that have been affected through the many wars that this country has had to face” (SL landmark). The build includes displays for each of over 20 wars, going back to the founding of this country. Each display has three notecards: detailed information about the war itself; the date, duration, and countries involved in the war; and the number of soldier and civilian casualties from each country, as well as POW and MIA information. This site is a wonderful resource for most anyone but especially for veterans, students, and history buffs.
The Path to Freedom is part of the Boreangels MC (motorcycle club, I assume) sim. Among other things, it has a practice shooting gallery; repair shop; beautiful horses grazing; and a clubhouse with a bar, game tables, stage, and dance floor.
On top of the clubhouse is a human cannonball contraption. I couldn’t resist. So I sat on the ball and was propelled into a lovely arc that landed me in a lovely pond – filled with piranha! What a delicious – at least for the piranha, I hope – surprise! After being torn to bits, I pulled myself together and had a good laugh. :^)
SL has at least two 911 memorials. I hadn’t thought of them as war memorials until I visited The Path to Freedom and saw that it had its own 911 display along with those that involved combat. The World Trade Center Memorial is a “tribute to those who perished in the attacks on New York City on September 11, 2001” (SL landmark). Both towers have been recreated as part of the New York NYC region. Outside the towers are flags of many nations and a steel beam cross. On the floor of each structure are the names of those who died there.
Like most everyone reading this post, I vividly remember exactly where I was when I heard the news on that clear blue-sky morning; I remember my shock and that of my colleagues and students as we watched, on a big screen TV in the student union, the towers fall. I remember the next day when we gathered on campus to mourn; along with others, I was asked to say a few words and remember saying that I hoped our government had the wisdom not to retaliate impulsively, not to use this unspeakably horrible event for political ends. Alas. More war.
Another memorial that asks us to “pay tribute to those who lost their lives to the tragic events of September 11, 2001” (SL landmark) is the 911 Memorial. It’s much smaller than the one in SL New York but moving nonetheless. The memorial includes the names of all those who lost their lives – at the Pentagon, on United 93, and in the WTC towers. It’s set on a terrace under which a waterfall flows and on which an eternal flame burns.
The 563 men and women who lost their lives as of 16 November 2008 in the Afghanistan conflict (ongoing) are remembered at the Operation Enduring Freedom Memorial. It features photos and names of those lost in a continual stream on a large screen in the middle of the memorial.
In SL Search I found one other U.S. war memorial, the Iraq War Memorial (Minoa Island/150/39/107). Like the previous one, it includes a running stream of photos and names of those lost before Memorial Day 2008. Whether the data bank has been updated, I couldn’t tell. In any case, a notecard provides the history of the memorial, which has moved around and changed shape since it was first built in 2004.
I’m grateful that the soldier and civilian casualties of war are being remembered in Second Life. My father, an Air Force pilot, lost his life when his plane was shot down in North Korea. I never knew him.
Peace be with you.