A Walk Among the Monuments

imageI 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.

National Mall

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 imagewhether 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 Honorimage 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!

73 thoughts on “A Walk Among the Monuments

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  1. Pictures – The pictures in the gallery groups have captions. The top image is the Pacific Monument at the WWII Memorial. The map of the National Mall links to a website where you can download a PDF of the map. The picture at the bottom is the WWII veteran who asked me if I wanted him to move.

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  2. “Freedom is not free”. Those are powerful words right there. Sad how quickly many people forget them. I really enjoyed this post, Dan. You did a marvellous job of documenting some very interesting and important memorials. And that last photo is truly priceless. Very touching and so appropriate.

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  3. Very poignant post! I have only been to DC once and only had 12 hours to cram as much as I could. I visited most the monuments you did. I also found the WWII and Viet Nam Memorials quite moving. The WWII Memorial in Normandy, France is very beautiful and moving as well.

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      1. Me too! It’s been on my list to go back since I was there in the mid 80’s! Alas, there are so many places to see and so little time, that I’ve not made it back.
        In that short 12 hour span I also took a tour of the Mint, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and Arlington Cemetery.
        The Mint was really neat, and made me a bit giddy seeing all that money. :)
        The Air and Space Museum was wonderful. Need to get back to that one. Seeing the space capsules that I’d watched splash down in the sea on television as a girl was a treat.
        Arlington Cemetery was very moving. I had two goals for that spot: To visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and find JFK’s grave site and see the Eternal Flame. I found both. The most moving and emotional to me was watching the Marine Guard guard the Tomb. I was lucky and also got to see the changing of the Guard. No, our Freedom is not Free!
        I’d go back to these two again also!

        We found a limo serve that was must have been the precursor to the “Big Red Bus” tours of today. We bought a ticket which was good for 24 hours. I it was $20.00 each. The limo had a list of tourist attractions they would stop at and pick you up later.We just told the driver which we wanted to visit and he drove us there. It was lovely! I don’t know if they still have that service or not, but if so I’d use that service again.

        OT- I’ve been sharing your blog with He-Man. He was born and raised in Monessen, PA, so I thought he’d enjoy your memories of the area. The TV station/football story you shared the other day brought back memories for him. He recalled the main newscaster was Bill Burns. A memory long stored awoken. Thanks for sharing your memories! They’ve brought mine out of the cobwebs of my mind as well. :)

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    1. Thanks. I have to go back. It was hard walking past the museums that line the Mall. I wanted to visit each one. I was surprised at what I could see in a short time but I wish I had had more time.

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  4. Thank you for this post, Dan.

    Washington DC holds many very special times for me, mostly centered around these Memorials. My stories to be told and people to be honored. I appreciate the way you wove honor and gratitude through your photos, and I look forward to visiting Pacific Paratroopers.

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      1. The human aspects of those statues is uncanny. Were you able to see it at night?

        My uncle was shot down in a spy plane over Korea when I was about 10 years old and was imprisoned. He eventually was returned to US. Details are sketchy in my memory – it’s one of the topics I’ll ask Dad about when we visit Mich in a few weeks. Dad is more willing to talk about WWII and Korea now.

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        1. I clicked on ‘post’ before adding that I am sorry to hear about your uncle. Also, to urge you to take advantage if your dad is willing to talk. My father wasn’t, and he died too soon (he was only 60) and there is so much that we will never know. My mother is still alive, but he didn’t talk to her about it either.

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          1. Thanks, Dan.

            Dad never talked to Mom either – other than she knows when the periodic nightmares occur.

            I won’t go into detail here, but i will have a series on Dad and those times. I’m only sorry you weren’t able to have conversations with your Father. It’s only been the last 5 years that Dad and I have talked because I finally found a couple ways to get him to open up. More on that when I get it written.

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            1. I look forward to reading that series (as I do all of your posts). My dad shared little snippets that made me understand that his experience was way worse than I imagined. He also suffered a relapse of Malaria once while we were on vacation.

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  5. Nice finish to the post .
    I was through D.C. one night long ago . It was the middle of the night and I was on my way somewhere . I briefly saw the Lincoln Monument and the Washington Monument . I would like to go and spend some time . Your post inspires me to do it.

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    1. Thanks Dan. The first time I was there was for a week of training (day and night). Three of is skipped the final assignment and paid a cab driver to give us a drive-by tour. I need to go back when I have way more time.

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    1. Thanks. Those are two other great cities. I’ve been to Boston too many times to count, and SFO several times for business and fun. I’ve mostly only seen DC after working all day. I need to fix that.

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      1. I also want to visit a place called Madawaska (Maine) almost close to Canada border. I used to have one online friend living there, but she got married and now moved to Bar Harbor. The places around there are great too.

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  6. “Go visit the people who do nothing or walk among the people who did everything they could possibly do.”
    Love the line, cynical but…
    You certainly took advantage of that week spent in Washington D.C.
    Your monument touring is impressive.
    Of course, I like the mention of the Eiffel Tower, a familiar landmark in my former Parisian life. I went to the top for the first time with my kids. So I applaud you for being a tourist in your own land.
    And of course these monuments are a tribute to men and women who shared a deep love for their country and for freedom at large.
    For that, I thank you.

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    1. Thanks Evelyne. Somehow I knew that you would like the early results of the height competition :) Maybe the next time I’m in DC, I’ll go to the top of the Washington Monumnet. If I ever get to Paris, I will visit the Eiffel Tower. Thanks for reading and commenting. I always appreciate your thoughtful comments.

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  7. What an incredible job you did on this post, Dan!! How you so neatly organized the photos, and then all the links, wow, you really outdid yourself with this post. I cannot even image the time you put into putting everything together. Your pictures are awesome, every single one of them! I really thank you for taking me for a tour of Washington. Gorgeous, just gorgeous post!!! Good for you!!!! Love, Amy

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    1. Thanks Amy. I have to get better at organizing photos. I’m happy with these, but it took too long and I still wish I would have changed the order a bit. I find it hard to figure out what to emphasize. I need to get a little better with the Gallery tool. It does all the heavy lifting for you, but it still takes time. I appreciate your comments, especially since you always have beautiful photos and a layout to die for.

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      1. Dan, that is why I mentioned I cannot even begin to fathom how long it took you to pull this post together. I KNOW what it takes to post photos and to get them just right. I think you really did an outstanding job. Of course, beauty IS in the eyes of the beholder, and I do believe I um hear the Inner Critic getting too loud in your head. You really did GOOD!!! (((HUGS))) Amy

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          1. SMILE Don’t underrate what you do. I’m behind the scene as well, getting photos just right …. always thinking, which one goes where? How best to enhance my words? Yup, right there with you! xx Amy

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  8. This is an amazing post. Those pictures. Memories. History. I love monuments. But war monuments somehow leave me disturbed. My attention was particularly arrested by the following writings “TODAY GUNS ARE SILENT . . . THE ENTIRE WORLD IS QUIETLY AT PEACE.” If those good soldiers woke up today, they’d cringe and despair. Guns are anything but silent, perhaps louder, and the world is far from peaceful. The vanity of war. I don’t know how we miss to see it. If war were a solution for world problems, we’d be all be at peace by now. But war is part of the problems. As soon as one perceived enemy is vanquished, the next one emerges. Until I can’t help but wonder whether we ourselves are our own enemy, that we project on other people.
    The other writing that has also disturbed me is the one that says: “FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.” Some of the things that sometimes cross my mind and I shove them away to the back because I do not understand them are “killing for love”, “fighting for freedom”, “war heroes”, etc. They sound to me like oxymoron. Maybe our great, great ancestors should have taught us that the only freedom we need is freedom from all the killings in the name of freedom. All these killings just never work. How did we end up so terrified in this world, that our enemies seem to matter more than friends?
    But, I don’t know. The world is that way, has been, is, and will be. We are inspired more by opposition than compliance.

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    1. I think the monuments should be somewhat disturbing Peter. I think our officials on either side of that Mall should be made to walk past those memorials each time they think about committing young men and women to another battle. But, I think some battles have to be fought WWI, we called “the war to end all wars” and yet the “winners” locked us into WWII as soon as they wrote the Treaty of Versailles. WWII was a noble fight, but it also left the world divided, albeit among countries who were allies only months before. It’s the politicians and would-be nation builders who bring us to war. It’s the fanatics and the zealots who bring us to war. It’s never soldiers. The “Freedom is not free” quote bothered me as well, which is why I bracketed it with the four stones showing the cost of that war. That war never actually ended, there’s a truce in effect to this day. You’re right about opposition.

      I copied this reply into Evernote Peter, I think I just began writing my 2015 Memorial Day post. Thanks as always for reading and contributing.

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    1. I hope you get the chance to visit. I hope I get a chance to visit when I have more time. There is so much to see withing walking distance of the Washington Monument that it would take days. Thanks for the visit and comments.

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  9. Beautiful walk Dan. I had the pleasure of visiting these places once, some 27 years ago. It was memorable with so much historical commemoration in such a concentrated area. My favorite is the Lincoln Memorial and I love the view of the Washington Monument from that spot. The Vietnam Vets Memorial brought tears to my eyes. At that time it was fairly new and was lined with notes, toys and photos from family and friends. Great post and photos Dan.

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    1. Thanks Cheryl. I need to go back when I have more time to explore the monuments and the museums. The Vietnam Memorial was difficult to walk through because I know some of the names on the wall.

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  10. A very moving and powerful post for me. I’ve visited a number of memorials, initially as a raw and green recruit but many more times since, both in Northern France and in Germany. Like yourself, such visits can be difficult to say the least but they do bring home the sense of sacrifice that was made, and the true value of the everyday freedoms most take for granted.

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    1. Thanks. I wish they would make all the politicians along the National Mall walk around those monuments once a week so they would remember. I would love to see some of the memorials in Europe – maybe someday.

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  11. Well done and thank you on behalf of those that don’t bother. As an ex-Serviceman (British Army) I worked or trained alongside the US Forces on a couple of occasions. I have also visited several War Memorials and War Grave cemetaries. Of most note to me was Oosterbeek in the Netherlands (Arnhem – and the movie, ‘A Bridge Too Far). The graves of the powered aircraft and glider crews are laid out together in lines. All the fallen should have the respect of those of us who are because they are not.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Tom and thank you for your service. Men and women who fought, who were ready to fight, who served in any capacity should be honored. During WWII the honors extend to the men and particularly the women who served in production lines, recycling efforts and all the other activities that made the war effort possible. The hardest thing to witness as I was growing up was the shabby way we treated returning veterans from Viet Nam. My father taught me to carefully mix feelings about the war with feelings toward those who had served.

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  12. Reblogged this on No Facilities and commented:

    Most of my regular readers saw this post last September. I wasn’t planning to re-post it but when I looked through the pictures, it seemed appropriate for Memorial Day. I hope you’re enjoying the holiday weekend but please take a moment to remember those for whom this holiday was established.

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth. Seeing those WWII veterans visiting their memorial was so special. There aren’t many left to make the trip. I was truly honored to be among them.

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      1. I know, Dan. I know. The hell I’ve seen both men go through. Bill is having the best vet related holiday he has had in years. OH FOR THE JOY to see him happy today and not focused on his buddies who did not come home with him. *tears*

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