One of my favorite memories from my first two visits to D.C. were seeing the monuments. They are such imposing structures dedicated to important men, women, and times in our history. And they are just stunningly beautiful. For this reason, and many others, our first stop for our time in D.C. was the national monuments. We wanted to make sure the girls got to see them and the weather was a tad questionable for several of the days we were planning to be there. So, we went walking.
It is a nice long walk from the middle of the mall area down to the Lincoln memorial, which marks the farthest memorial on the mall. We visited the Washington Monument, which was fenced off for work, first. It is neat to see this tall building up close and to take a look at the change in color where work had to be halted for a while.
We then walked on down to the World War II Memorial, with a glimpse of the White House along the way. There was an Honor Flight from Michigan at the memorial when we arrived and it was breathtaking to see them all sitting there proudly, most in wheelchairs, visiting the memorial dedicated to them and all those comrads that were lost in the war. It was touching to see them gingerly touching the monument and taking pictures alongside the marker for their state. Knowing many of these men will not be alive much longer made this a special time and it was wonderful to be able to talk to the girls about the important role those men there that day played in our history.
Next we visited what is often called The Wall – the Vietnam Memorial. It was sobering to look at the seemingly-never-ending list of names on the wall. To know that each of those names represents a lost life for a conflict that our nation was involved in. We walked quietly along the wall, discussing with the girls what was going on with some of the folks who were doing rubbings of names or looking through the inches-thick directories trying to locate the name of someone important. We were able to talk about how so many of these were lost and the circumstances surrounding much of the conflict.
We walked past a few of the statues that represent different people from different populations in all of the wars and read what we could about each of them. The National Park Service provides brochures that come in handy for many of these.
We visited the Lincoln Memorial, climbing up the steps to stand at the base of his statue and imagine what an imposing man he was. We read the engraved speeches on the walls and just stood in awe of this great president. We talked about what a influence he was on America and how he truly tried to unite the states during the Civil War. His work is often underappreciated, I think, and it was great to be able to chat with the girls about President Lincoln.
Next we walked over to the Korean Memorial. This is a harder-to-explain war for me, since I am still trying to learn more about it. I have read some lately that helped me talk to the girls a bit about it. We talked about why it is represented the way it is and we looked at the different parts – with the soldiers in rain gear trudging through plants.
While there, one of the girls hit her breaking point and I was talking with her about why we were visiting these memorials – to remember the people who gave their lives so that we can live in freedom, that other people who were around us could very likely have been the family of the men that fought the war, etc. A veteran was listening and chimed in, saying something along the lines of “Young lady, you are very special and blessed to live here. I and many other fought for this and this place represents those who couldn’t come home. It is a special place.” That made an impression on me and I think it did her, as well, because she got quiet and we just sat in the shade for a bit. Then she was ready to move on.
We called it a day at that point, as it was really hot and getting late in the afternoon. We knew the walk was long to get over to the Jefferson Memorial and the others on that part of the tidepool. We opted to just chat with the girls about those. While I was disappointed, I knew it wasn’t wise to push that hard on our first full day in D.C. After all, we were going to be there for several more days and there was no way we could possibly see everything we wanted to. The monuments were important, though, and I am glad we chose that day to do them, hot as it was. The next few days were off and on rainy so that would have made it unpleasant to visit them.