No matter what time of year it is, it’s always a good time to honor those who have fought and died for our country. On Veterans Day especially, it is important to recognize the heroism and valor of those who gave all protecting our freedom, and those who still fight for us today.
The Washington, DC metro region provides many opportunities for those who want to pay their respects. Along the National Mall in the heart of the nation’s capital, for example, you can visit what is called the "pyramid of honor," which includes the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The World War II Memorial, located between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, honors the heroes of the Greatest Generation. Split into two sides representing the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, this poignant monument is adorned with gold stars that represent the Americans who lost their lives.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial is hauntingly real, featuring 19 lifelike statues of soldiers on patrol—one from each branch of the Armed Forces. A mural wall contains more than 2,400 photographs of the men, women and dogs who served in Korea, honoring the memories of those who fought in "The Forgotten War."
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is just as memorable in its simplicity—58,274 names of the missing or deceased fill two walls of polished black granite, and there is a guide on-site for those looking for the names of loved ones. The memorial also features the sculpture, Three Servicemen, and a Women’s Memorial.
The Air Force Memorial, located across the Potomac River in Arlington, VA, pays tribute to the more than 54,000 American airmen who have died in combat. A soaring, powerful piece of art made of three stainless steel spires that slice more than 200 feet into the air, this design by James Ingo Freed is said to represent the USAF’s three core values of Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do. A statue of four honor guards, including a woman, anchor one end of the monument; the opposite side features a courage/sacrifice/valor inscription wall. Perhaps the most touching aspect of the memorial is a glass wall etched with airplanes in the Missing Man formation—the final salute to a fallen comrade.
No tribute would be complete without a stop at Arlington Cemetery, located adjacent to The Air Force Memorial. A national shrine to the thousands of men and women who died defending the U.S. and freedom around the world, the cemetery is home to veterans from every war, including 17,000 Civil War casualties. Photos of the cemetery don’t do justice to its massive size; wandering among its 624 acres, it’s hard to fathom the loss of life that the cemetery represents. While there are many well-known servicemen buried here, including boxer Joe Louis, actors Audie Murphy and Lee Marvin, President John F. Kennedy and his father Joseph, as well as brothers Robert and Edward, I like to think that just as much respect is paid by visitors to the many men and women who may not have been as well-known in life.
For a true appreciation of what it means to sacrifice for your country, make sure to watch the somber and moving Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This tribute, to "an American soldier known but to God," is both respectful and heart-wrenching, and a solemn reminder that freedom is never free.
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Freelance writer. Road tripper. Travel diva. Dog rescuer. Writes for food or kibbles and bits. Based out of Pittsburgh, PA, via Juneau, AK, Vanessa has been a freelance writer for more than 25 years, and has been published in many diverse publications,including GEEK, Recreation News, CATS, VFW magazine, the Antique Trader and more. An avid traveler, she always brings home amazing memories...and often more dogs. Follow Vanessa on her blog, Mood Swings and Other Things, on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.
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