At the official website for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall (http://thewall-usa.com/), the following description is given regarding the symbols that either precede or follow each of the 58,272 names that are indelibly etched into The Wall:
WHAT ARE THE SYMBOLS BY THE NAMES?
The diamonds and pluses (crosses) indicate whether a person is confirmed dead (those who died in accidents are included) or missing/whereabouts unknown. The diamond indicates a person's death was confirmed. The pluses (crosses) indicate that a person remains missing and unaccounted for and in no way are meant to be a religious symbol. A plus (cross) symbol can be easily turned into a diamond if a person is declared dead (such as the return of their remains). A circle (as a symbol of life) will be inscribed around the plus if the person comes back alive. As of this time, no circle appears on the wall. On the West wall the symbols precede the names, while on the East wall they follow the names.
This is the story of how three American Green Berets (of which I was one), along with our ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) counterparts, and one hundred sixty Montagnard Strikers, succeeded in accomplishing what a Battalion of the 4th Division could not do - and in the process, insured that A Diamond on The Wall preceded the name of one fallen American Warrior; and how that recovery mission still impacts my life today. Download and start listening now!