Monday, September 29, 2014

Monuments and Memorials, Part IV

This is the fourth (final) part of “What I Did on My Just-Past-Summer Vacation,” to Washington, DC. The significant element of this trip was how frequently we encountered reverence—for the ideas of freedom and civilization, and for the great people who brought those things to us, out of a world of tyranny and savagery.
The first three parts covered mainly individuals: Part I was Thomas Jefferson; Part II was Abraham Lincoln; Part III was George Washington. This final post will cover a number of people and places I’m glad we got to experience, and I want to share, at least with a photo and a mention.
White House front portico, from Pennsylvania Avenue
We saw the White House from the front and the back. To tour inside these days requires a special invitation from your Congressman, arranged well ahead of time. This was four days before some crazy person jumped the fence and made it inside the front door, which was a huge security breach. With all the security we saw, it’s hard to imagine that happening. We also toured the beautiful White House Visitors Center, about a block away—which was the first place to require inspection on the way it.

White House, back view, where the inauguration takes place

National Archives, where you can see the actual
Declaration of Independence and Constitution
No photos were allowed inside the Archives, so I just have to remember. The security guard standing next to the Constitution talked with us, about the various signatures and other details. He had an accent, so I asked where he was from. As I assumed, he had become a citizen, which was required in order to work there. He was from Ghana, but now he is American, and very proud of it. And he may know our history better than most of us born here.
"Eternal Vigilance Is the Price of Liberty"
aside the entrance to the National Archives
Inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
We got to witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This was one of the most reverent moments of our trip. We all stood, in silence, throughout. The ceremony takes place whether people are there or not. They revere those sacred dead; we are invited to join them in that honor. We felt privileged to witness it.

Changing of the Guard
at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Retiring the Flag at Arlington Cemetery
After the ceremony, we were waiting for our tour bus, and I ran off to take a few more photos. And I noticed this additional ceremony, the retiring of the flag in early evening. There was no crowd around. The soldiers were doing the honorable ceremony, because that’s what they do. I took the photo from a distance; I was glad I got to see this sacred moment.


Among the Acres of Graves at Arlington Cemetery
I know it doesn’t sound like a thrilling vacation to go to a cemetery, but Arlington Cemetery is worth experiencing. It’s vast, and beautiful, and sacred.

JFK Grave, Eternal Flame
The eternal flame, marking the grave of John F. Kennedy, is actually quite simple and understated.

"Ask not what your country can do for you,
but Ask what you can do for your country..."
near JFK's Eternal Flame
In the wall behind the marker are some of his quotes, carved in the stone. This is my favorite.

Vietnam Memorial Wall

The Vietnam Memorial Wall is most impressive maybe because of its length, full of names of those lost in service in that war.

Korean War Memorial
On the opposite side of the Lincoln Memorial is this Korean War Memorial. It also has a reflective wall, this one with faces looking out. The wall is alongside a garden of statues, soldiers walking through undergrowth, as you might have seen them in action. I hadn’t been aware of this memorial before the trip. But I saw it in a scene of a TV show (Covert Affairs) after returning home. This was another place I really felt the reverence. Maybe it relates to having a son stationed in Korea this year.

Iwo Jima Monument
The Iwo Jima Monument relates to World War II. It is located just outside the Arlington Cemetery. We saw it just before sunset, which made photography a challenge, but the sky toward the sun was stunning. This photo is taken with back to the sun.

MLK Monument, viewed from across the tide pool
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is relatively new. It is along the tide pool, which starts with the Jefferson Memorial, then the FDR Memorial, and then the MLK Memorial, before you get to Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pond.  It’s a long, but not impossible, walk.

That's me, standing strong with
Martin Luther King
on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial
This stone, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, marks where MLK gave his “I Have a Dream” Speech.

World War II Memorial
At the end of the reflecting pool, opposite the Lincoln Memorial, and before the grassy hill leading to the Washington Monument, is the relatively new World War II Memorial. It’s a beautiful, huge circle of pillars, identifying each of the states and territories that participated, all surrounding a huge fountain. We arrived as some tour busses arrived. We were after schools had started, so we saw more older visitors than usual. But at this one, there was an unusual number of wheelchairs. And we realized these were WWII vets, coming here to see the memorial that honored them. Some were in tears. And so was I. Being there, with them, was one of my favorite memories of the trip. My dad served in WWII. He passed away several years ago, at age 91. So I’m thinking our few remaining WWII vets are getting near the limit of being able to come.
What was remarkable about this trip to Washington, DC, was how little we heard the news or politics while in our nation’s capital. It was a great respite. And maybe it would do us all good to look to the ideas of our founding, and the people who staked their lives on those ideas, and go resolutely in that direction.


  1. Iwo Jima is not related to the Korean war. It was one of the battles in the pacific during WWII. It's most interesting because the place they chose to put that flag was not yet held by US forces, but it was the most prominent point on the island.

  2. Of course. Thanks for the correction.

  3. Since it was still the day I published this post, I went ahead and made the correction in the text.