Fedblog FedblogFedblog
Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Preserving Vietnam's Memories and Mysteries

ARCHIVES
Carolyn Kaster/AP

There are federal employees who achieve varying degrees of fame for their service. There are those who toil behind the scenes while making stunning achievements. And then there are those like Duery Felton, curator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection, which consists of all of the items left by visitors to the memorial on the National Mall in Washington. 

Felton is one of the central figures in a piece by  Rachel Manteuffel in the November issue of Washingtonian, and his story is both very specific to his own experiences in the war and its aftermath and typical of the unsung dedication of so many people who work in government. That story starts with a description of what happens after National Park Service rangers gather up the mementos and random objects left at the wall and place them into boxes:

The boxes are hand-trucked and golf-carted to a temporary storage room near the Washington Monument, where they await transport to the Museum Resource Center, or MRCE, pronounced “mercy,” a gleaming modern facility in Maryland that houses 40 historic collections from National Park Service sites around the region. The candles get 30 days or more of isolation and are checked for organic matter—flowers, potpourri, marijuana, unsealed food, tobacco, anything that might carry mold. That stuff is “deaccessioned”—thrown out to protect the rest of the collection.

Then the artifacts go into the cotton-gloved hands of Duery Felton Jr., curator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection, a decorated Vietnam veteran who has devoted himself to this work for 25 years.

Felton is a young-looking 65. He’s compact, with a shaved head and a cane he sometimes carries but rarely uses. He works in blue cotton garments that resemble scrubs, and he moves with grace. Give him a mask and he might be a surgeon.

Duery Felton doesn’t want to be written about. Ask him about his thoughts and feelings—how his life would be different if there were no Vietnam Veterans Memorial or what the hardest part of his job is—and he answers the question he wishes you asked instead.

He pauses, touches his fingertips to his closed eyelids, and begins: “I can tell you this one because he has died.” He answers your question about him by talking about others.

Felton and his team embody the quiet, steadfast dedication to achieving an important, if little-noticed, mission that is emblamatic of the best public servants. Do yourself a favor and  read the whole article about them and the hidden story behind the wall. It's well worth your time. 

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.