The threat of war in the Persian Gulf shadowed Veterans Day observances from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington to an Army post in Eastern Saudi Arabia.

"It looks like many people will be marching in next year's Veterans Day parades with a banner saying `Desert Shield '90-91,' " 2nd Lt. Benjamin Lacy, 23, of Largo, Fla., said at the Mideast post on Sunday.The human cost of any offensive against Iraq to liberate Kuwait is "a question that's on everybody's mind," Lacy said.

It was on people's minds here, too.

It's "just a matter of time" until the United States is at war again, Bob Horsch of Rahway, N.J., a veteran of Army service in Vietnam, told a reporter at the Vietnam memorial Sunday.

Horsch said he believes the military buildup in the Persian Gulf is the right thing to do because "it is in the interest of the United States and other countries."

Stephen Reuben of Lapwai, Idaho, a member of the Nez Perce tribe who also served in Vietnam, declined to say whether he believed the buildup was a good idea, but said he fears the country will go to war.

"I am afraid so, but I pray and hope we don't," Reuben said.

Teresa Swain of Hagerstown, Md., when asked if she supported the buildup, said, "We have to protect our interests." As to whether it would mean war, she said, "I certainly hope not." Mrs. Swain said she has a son-in-law in the Air Force.

At Arlington National Cemetery, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney placed a floral wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and told a crowd of about 5,500, "Those who have been deployed to the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia are probably the best-trained soldiers we have ever had."

Meanwhile, the jury selecting a design for a memorial to women who served in Vietnam, to be built adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, announced that it has selected two finalists instead of one winner.

One of the winning designs, by sculptor Eileen Rose Barry of East Islip, Long Island, is a statue of a woman standing alone with a helmet in her hand.

"She looks like she has been to war and she is going somewhere else," said juror Raquel Ramati, a New York urban designer. "She is dignified and courageous, but she looks like she is part of the human race. She is not superwoman."

The other finalist, by landscape architect Robert Diamond of Arlington, Mass., consists of 240 jets of water with a large white marble block at the center. The white will contrast with the black marble wall, with the names of more than 58,000 Vietnam war dead on it, that is the central feature of the Vietnam memorial.

Ramati said the nine-member jury was divided. Veterans favored a representational sculpture; designers leaned toward an abstract design.

Diane Carlson Evans, director of the project, said the two finalists would be asked to refine their proposals and the final design would be a collaboration of the two. The target date for dedication is 1992.

At the Vietnam memorial, representatives of military and patriotic groups placed wreaths in front of the wall as a bagpiper played "Abide With Me."

The National Park Service estimated the crowd at 5,000. The weather was bright and sunny, with a crisp wind.

The ceremonies were held on Sunday, the traditional Veterans Day, although Monday is the official national holiday.

Veterans Day is not a holiday for the 230,000 American troops deployed in the Persian Gulf, but many remembered their fellow soldiers who fought in previous wars.