Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Kentucky Veterans Memorial overlooks the state Capitol and honors the 125,000 Kentuckians who served during the Vietnam War. The memorial consists of a giant sundial set within a marble field on which are etched the names of the 1,103 Kentuckians who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country during that conflict.

The hours of the sundial represent the years of the war, thus each sector between the walkways includes one year of Kentucky losses. The length of the shadow of the gnomon varies with the date of the year, with the longest shadows on December 21, the Winter Solstice, and the shortest on June 21, the Summer Solstice. The names are arranged in such a way that the shadow of the sundial falls upon each one precisely on the anniversary of their death. The exact time of this anniversary is unique for each name, but does not vary from year to year. Accordingly, every day is a memorial day for a Kentucky Vietnam veteran.

The arrangement of names was intended to show the pattern of Kentucky casualties for the Vietnam War. The first two deaths occurred in 1962 and the last person was killed in 1975. The year of heaviest losses was 1968, which falls between Noon and 1:00 PM, Eastern Standard Time. The names of those missing in action or prisoners of war are located in front of the gnomon, where the shadow never falls.

The curved lines on the plaza mark the location of the Summer and Winter Solstice and show the path of the shortest and longest shadows of the year. The straight East/West line locates the path of the Spring and Fall Equinox. The times inscribed on the stone outer circle represent natural or "Sun" time. The walkways are located at the mean position of Eastern Standard Time. The inner circle of stones around the base of the gnomon are inscribed with the verse from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

For everything there is a season;
and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal,
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.

Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Tip of Shadow on Name

Designed by Lexington architect and naval aviator Helm Roberts and dedicated on Veteran's Day, 1988, the privately-funded and maintained memorial has become one of the most popular "hidden" attractions in Kentucky. Most days, just a handful of visitors trickle past, quietly taking in the solemnity of the memorial's purpose while marveling at its unique and innovative design (which earned it the American Institute of Architects Merit Award in 1995). It has become a routine stop on the various bus tours of Frankfort, leading to brief moments of crowded admiration, but most often the memorial sits within a bubble of solitude befitting its purpose.

The area north of the winter solstice line is designated for ceremonies. The United States flag and the Kentucky flag are flown every day signifying the common bond among all who are memorialized here. These are the flags they knew when they served the nation. Special ceremonies are held on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, POW/MIA Recognition Day and Veterans Day, and especially during the annual Rolling Thunder pilgrimage. The POW/MIA flag is also flown beneath the US flag in memory of POWs and MIAs from all wars and conflicts.

The Meditation Area looking down on the plaza provides a distant view of the state capitol, framed by the gnomon and the flags.

The Memorial is one of the largest granite memorials in the nation and contains 327 cut stone panels weighing more than 215 tons. The stone came from the Pyramid Blue quarry in Elberton, GA. The lettering of the names and dates are the same style used for official government grave markers throughout the nation, including Arlington National Cemetery.

The memorial is open year-round from dawn to dusk and lies just off the East-West Connector (KY 676) at the intersection of Coffee Tree Road and Vernon Cooper Lane (38.177159, -84.864145).


  • Helm Roberts page on the memorial Retrieved on 2010-04-25
  • Retrieved on 2010-04-25
  • Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial website.
  • Eblen, Tom (November 10, 2008). "Memorial built with sunshine and shadow.". Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved 2010-04-25.
  • Dawson, John W. "The Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial", The Mathematical Intelligencer, 2001. pp. 56–58.
  • Roberts, Helm. Memorial Center Plaque Text. 1988, updated by designer 2008.
  • Roberts, Helm. "Kentucky's Vietnam Veterans Memorial", Cadence, June 1989, pp. 45–47.
  • Seal, Mark. "Billy Ray's Old Kentucky Home", American Way, December 1992, pp. 28–31
  • Aked, Charles K. "Vietnam Veterans Memorial", The British Sundial Society Bulletin, 1993, pp. 9–16.
  • "Touched by the Shadow", Southern Living, May 1994, p. 32.
  • Lynch, Mike. "Leaving Their Shadows Behind", Kentucky Living, November 1994, pp. 31–32.
  • Witt, Kathy, "Reunion at the Memorial", Kentucky Living, November 2000, pp. 25–26.
  • Lennox-Boyd, Mark. "Sundials", Frances Lincoln, First edition 2003, pp. 124–125.
  • Schilke, John F. Conference Notes and Yearly Award of Sawyer Dialing Prize in Banff Canada, August 2003, p. 3