The proud American (extended) ZamFam at the Washington Monument. We went to Washington, D.C. for the day to walk around the monuments in the mall. The theme of our trip seemed to be insane humidity and crazy heat, but we had an awesome time. We walked our feet off, but even in the heat, D.C. was moving and invigorating. We are definitely going to try to get back and spend MUCH more time. There is a definite atmosphere about Washington that exudes power and drive.
If you know me for about ten minutes, you will know that I am a World War II buff. This memorial was the main reason I wanted to visit Washington. It alone was worth the visit and exceeded my expectations. I found it so incredibly moving that I left everyone at the reflection pool and walked around by myself with tears streaming down my face and a huge lump in my throat. I must have looked strange to some people (I wouldn't really pass for a WWII vet!), but I didn't care.
This is the view of the memorial from the top of the Washington Monument. It is one of the most gorgeous, well-designed public spaces I have ever seen, full of symbolism, gravitas and import -- so befitting the people and events it memorializes. It is amazing to me that this memorial is so new, that we didn't have a national monument prior to 2004. Fittingly, it was begun in September 2001 and was funded primarily through private donations. (Tom Hanks and Bob Dole spearheaded the fundraising. Thanks, Tom and Bob! -- Yeah we're on a first name basis.)
"HERE WE MARK THE PRICE OF FREEDOM" (and here is where the tears flowed even more freely). This is a reflection pond with the above inscription in the foreground and a field of blue studded with gold stars in the background. Each of the 4,000 stars represents 100 American lives sacrificed (400,000) in the war that saved the world from tyranny.
The oval is flanked by two pavilions representing the two theaters of war -- the Pacific and the Atlantic. In the center of the memorial is a large fountain which drowns out street noise and offers a fitting background for contemplation. Fifty-six large columns offer the roll call of the nation -- one for each state and territory that united in the effort. The wreaths on each pillar are of oak and wheat symbolizing the nation's industrial and agricultural strength which were essential to the success of the global effort. There are also quotes and inscriptions throughout the memorial from key battles.
On the floor of each pavilion is a large medallion of the WWII Victory Medal that all who served received. Suspended from the ceiling are four bronze victory eagles holding laurel wreaths. So spectacular! I had a headache when I left because I was swallowing so hard trying not to just burst out weeping. I'm sorry my picture descriptions sound so "guidebook-ish." I just cannot convey how meaningful it was for me to visit this memorial. Never before have so few sacrificed so much for so many. (And just imagine my poor nephews who were with on this trip. They would offer the following advice: never go on a vacation to Washington, D.C. with your aunt if she is a history teacher! If you think this is bad . . . )
We also went to the Vietnam War Memorial. The famous Wall is beautiful as it is not a wall just jutting out of the ground, but is a graceful arc that starts thin, culminates at over six fee tall and than narrows back down to a few inches. It is built into the side a small rise and has the name of each soldier who was killed, captured or missing in the war. If the name has a diamond after it, that soldier is confirmed dead. If there is a cross after the name, that soldier is MIA or captured. There are over 1000 names on the wall designated as MIA/POW. I found this mind boggling, as did Bean, who poignantly asked, "Why did people invent war?" Good question.
The Korean War Memorial was also incredible. "The Forgotten War" is memorialized by a fitting inscription: "Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met." As a former history teacher, I knew the dates of the Korean War (1950-1953), but until I saw the memorials all together, I didn't realize the ramifications of the fact that the Korean War was just a short five years after the end of World War Two. It was also one of the first major tests of the newly formed United Nations (not a real stellar legacy if you ask me -- considering the present situation with North Korea) and the first time US troops went into battle as UN forces. In three years of conflict the US lost over 36,000 soldiers in addition to 92,000 wounded, 8200 MIA and 7100 POW.
America. Land of the Free. Home of the Brave.
Waxing ever patriotic,