Visit to War Memorials in DC, Arlington Cemetery was overdue
It took me almost 75 years but, along with wife Peg, friends Bob and Geri Burnett of Rockdale and Jerry and
Vicki Roddy of Walland, Tennessee, I made it to the National Mall in Washington DC.
(Since I admitted to almost 75 years, let me hasten to explain that Peg and those friends are much younger; no doghouse for this scribe.)
It was worth the wait.
Along with other tourists by the hundreds, we did the museums, the National Archives, toured the Capitol and the Library of Congress, visited the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, the Washington Monument, the FDR Memorial, the Kennedy Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, and so much more that reaffirmed our pride in our country and the brilliance of the Founding Fathers.
But this pictorial focuses on the War Memorials on the National Mall, and on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington. Why? Because....
National Cemetery, Tomb of Unknown Soldier Freedom Is Not Free
Those four words are on the wall of the Korean War Veterans Memorial and reflect the sentiments of men and women who served in that war—as well as those who have fought and sacrificed to preserve democracy throughout our nation’s history. THE BROTH
World War II Memorial (below left)
The United States entered World War II in 1941 not to conquer, but to liberate a world fast falling to forces of tyranny. The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million who served in uniform, including 400,000 who gave their lives. It also honors the many millions who supported the war effort on the home front and celebrates the American spirit, national unity and victory.
A place of honor, a place of valor, a place of remembrance, Arlington National Cemetery covers 624 acres and contains the remains of over 320,000 servicemen and women, veterans from every war. The nation’s most sacred military shrine, it bears silent witness to the whole of American history. At the Tomb of the Unknowns, established in 1921, a sentinel of the Third U.S. Infantry maintains vigil around the clock, in all weather. Changing of the guard occurs every hour (half-hour in hot weather). The sentinel paces 21 steps alongside the tomb, pauses 21 seconds, then returns. The 21 signifies a 21-gun salute. It recognizes the price paid by families. The war that changed the world also changed life at home. After 1945, education expanded through the G.I. Bill. Technology surged as industries retooled for peace. Women’s rights and civil rights made new strides toward the goal of liberty and justice for all.
Dedicated in 2004 during the administration of President George W. Bush, the WW II Memorial is the newest of the war memorials on the National Mall. It celebrates a generation of Americans who emerged from the Great Depression to fight and win the most devastating war in world history, fought across six of the world’s seven continents and on all of its oceans.
The memorial marks key battles, honors all U.S. states and territories with inscribed pillars, has a Freedom Wall with 4,000 gold stars commemorating the more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives in the war.
Twin Atlantic and Pacific pavilions symbolize a war fought across two oceans.
The memorial is placed between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial to reflect the war’s importance in preserving democratic ideals won under Washington and preserved under Lincoln.
At Vietnam Memorial, reflections on a special moment Retired Rockdale ISD teacher/administrator Geri Burnett, accompanied by husband Bob and friend Peggy Cooke, conducts a rubbing of the name of her brother, Paul Houston Gray, who was a U.S. Marine machine gunner who had been in Vietnam only two months when he was killed by an enemy sniper in February of 1967, just a month before his 19th birthday. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated Nov. 13, 1982. President Ronald Reagan accepted the completed memorial on behalf of the nation. “I have wanted to come to this memorial since it was completed,” Mrs. Burnett said, “and this visit has meant so much.” Rubbings are taken of the names by loved ones and family and friends leave tokens of remembrance at the memorial daily. The black granite walls contain 58,256 names, inscribed in chronological order of the date of casualty. In essence, the names are the memorial.
Sculptor Fredrick Hart’s life-size Three Servicemen Statue. Said Hart of his subjects: “They are young. The contrast between the innocence of their youth and the weapons of war underscores the poignancy of their sacrifice...Their strength and their vulnerability are both evident.”
World War II Memorial (below left)
Korean War Veterans Memorial This Memorial honors those Americans who answered the call from 1950 to 1953 to join U.N. forces against a communist threat to democratic nations worldwide. The war began only five years after the end of World War II. Some 1.5 million American men and women fought. A group of 19 stainless steel statues, created by WW II veteran Frank Gaylord, depicts a squad on patrol. Strips of granite and scrubby juniper suggest the rugged Korean terrain while windblown ponchos recall the harsh weather. This symbolic patrol depicts members of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy. A black granite wall mirrors the statues, intermingling the reflected images with faces etched into the granite. An adjacent Pool of Remembrance lists numbers of those killed, wounded, MIAs and POWs. Reporter photos by Bill Cooke