An hour south of Washington, D.C., in the heart of historical downtown of Fredericksburg, Virginia, there is a war memorial composed of six massive granite pillars, topped with a slab bearing strong gold letters that read “Our Fallen Heroes.” The face of each pillar is reserved for the names of the area’s fallen soldiers—just over half of the pillars are for wars stretching from WWI to the current “Global War on Terror,” and the rest—to the shock and infinite interpretations of passersby—for wars that haven’t been fought yet.
Constructed in 2008, the memorial was a collaboration between the city of Fredericksburg and the Fredericksburg Area Veteran’s Council (FAVC). The goal was for the city to have one place where they could honor the city’s fallen, but to allow for the potential to accommodate for future conflicts. When asked about the significance of these blank slates, secretary of the executive board of the FAVC Golda T. Eldridge said that they were incorporated to fit with the aesthetic design of the memorial and that there was “no specific intent for any symbolism in mind” when including them. And yet to many, a memorial with nearly half of its space reserved for upcoming conflicts is an eerie statement that such conflicts and casualties are an inevitable wave on the horizon.
Even the senior planner for the city of Fredericksburg, Eric Nelson, admitted that he found the blank walls to be “freaky.” But the most common reaction to this memorial seems to be encapsulated by Elizabeth Davis, 29, a longtime resident of the Fredericksburg area whose husband died while serving in 2014. “Although it may seem grim, the reality is that we don’t live in fantasy world, and there will always be more fighting,” she said. “The people who designed it were just being realistic.”