I spent most of the past week in Washington, DC. I’ve been to Washington several times, but my trips have always been of the in-business-out variety, including prescription nightlife. This time, I had a couple of hours to do some sightseeing. My hotel was close to the National Mall so I headed in that direction. I entered the area, according to the official map, known as The Mall. At that point I had a choice to make. Head toward the Capitol or head to the monuments and memorials. That was an easy choice – Go visit the people who do nothing or walk among the people who did everything they could possibly do.
The first monument I encountered was the tall one, the Washington Monument. It was the tallest building in the world when built but was rapidly shoved deep into 2nd place by the Eiffel Tower. The Washington Monument still is the tallest masonry monument. I add that bit of qualification since there seems to be a debate about whether it’s the tallest masonry structure or just the tallest stone structure. Whatever, it’s tall and I don’t want to think about how hard it was to build. If it wasn’t so well documented, somebody would be arguing that it was built by aliens.
I didn’t go into the monument because I didn’t have time. One big monument, honoring one famous man didn’t compare well to several shorter monuments honoring millions of men and women who served in the countless battles of multiple wars.
I took some pictures as I circled around the right side and I marveled at the workmanship. I listened to a tour guide talk about how the marble blocks are held together by gravity. There is mortar, but apparently it’s for weather-proofing not to hold things together.
In my last post, I mentioned touring the Grand Coulee Dam. Gravity is also doing the work there. The massive dam sits on bedrock and simply weighs more than the 9,155,942 m3 (2,418,743,967 US gallons) of water resting up against it. I digress, but I think that’s interesting.
The next stop on my walk was the place I wanted to see the most, the WWII memorial. The memorial is large. Anchored by monuments to the Pacific and European theaters of war, the memorial fountain is ringed by standards for each of the states and US territories involved in the war. Several of these were important to me – Pennsylvania, for my dad, West Virginia and Connecticut for my Father-in-law, and the Philippines because that is where my father ended up during the war. I had relatives who fought in Europe, but this isn’t a walk through my family tree.
(Note: In the galleries of pictures, you can hover over to see a caption or click to start a slide show).
From the WWII monument, I walked to and through the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – The Wall. I had previously seen The Moving Wall when it came to West Hartford, CT. I found the name I wanted to find and I shared a text message with the people that I know that care about that person. I was struck by the memorial’s stature. The WWII memorial rises up around you and is punctuated by descriptions of historic battles and statements that call attention to the battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. The Vietnam Memorial sinks below and simply lists the names of the soldiers who died in that war. There was no grand purpose to praise, no battles to remember, no day that will live in Infamy and no parade for those soldiers who returned.
My next stop was the Lincoln Memorial. While memorializing a great man, the Lincoln Memorial has also come to represent the fight for civil rights in which President Lincoln played such a significant role. From the steps of the memorial are some of the most recognized views of the Mall. One thing that I missed on those steps is an inscription marking the exact location from which Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. You can see a picture of that inscription in this article.
I continued to the Korean War Veterans Memorial for the final leg of my quick tour. I have to admit that prior to discovering Pacific Paratroopers blog, I didn’t know much about the Korean War. As the author of that blog moves into a discussion of WWII, I am finding that I don’t know as much about that war as I thought I did (and I thought I knew a lot). The Korean War memorial was haunting. The lifelike 7’ tall statues of soldiers in permanently muted action calls attention to the struggle of individual men and women in another conflict that refuses to fit neatly into history.
The statement “Freedom Is Not Free” stands at the east end of the memorial. Opposite from that statement are the carved totals indicating the price that was paid for this particular fight for freedom.
My favorite part of my walking tour was seeing the Honor Flight visitors walking and navigating wheel chairs around the WWII Memorial. My father-in-law was able to participate in his honor flight about a year before he died, and it meant a lot to him. One guy asked me if I wanted him to move so I could get a better picture. I told him “I think the picture is better with you in it, thank you!”