Fire Damages Vietnam Vet Gathering Spot On National Mall

Propane tank overheats, causes kiosk to go up in flames

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCWashington.com

    A popular gathering spot for veterans on the National Mall was badly damaged Monday after it went up in flames.

    The fire started late Monday night with a propane heater that was next to the small stand that sits between the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Wall.  It's staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is a place where veterans trade pins and other memorabilia and where people have learned about prisoners of war.

    All that was left Tuesday was charred debris, including POW bracelets and a flag pole with the tattered remains of the stars and stripes.

    The group Rolling Thunder, which advocates for POWs and missing soldiers, has kept a booth there since at least 1987 to remind people of soldiers who didn't come home from Vietnam, the Associated Press. There used to be four kiosks selling patches and military pins. Only one was left.

    Investigators said it appears the propane tank overheated, causing it to catch on fire.  It's not yet clear if and when the stand will reopen.

    Walt Sides, a founder of the group from Leesburg, Va., told AP they will rebuild with an identical booth.