Veterans Day in Washington, DC
Every November 11 Americans pause to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by the valiant men and women who have served their country as members of the U.S. military. The holiday was created in 1919 to honor the service of men who fought in World War I; at that time, it was called Armistice Day. It is now called Veteran's Day.
Veteran's Day is celebrated nation-wide, but what better place to give homage to our armed service members than Washington D.C.? Washington D.C. is a great place to learn about the history of the U.S. armed services. There are memorials dedicated to veterans of every war fought by U.S. citizens and to each branch of the U.S. military. During November there are often special events to commemorate Veterans Day. So lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or read the names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. When it's time to honor our veterans, Washington D.C. is the place to be.
Arlington National Cemetery
If there's only one place you visit in Washington D.C. in reverence to our nation's veterans, make it Arlington National Cemetery. Within this 612 acre cemetery lies the graves of 300,000 who gave their lives in service to our country. New graves are added regularly; any active or retired member of the U.S. Armed Forces is eligible to be interred here. So are their spouses.
Arlington National Cemetery has several monuments to honor members of special groups. Of these, none is more famous than the Tomb of the Unknowns, pictured below. Within this grave lie the unidentified bodies of three U.S. soldiers killed in three different wars: World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. (A fourth body belonging to a Vietnam casualty was identified, disinterred, and shipped home to his family in 1998. This grave is watched continuously by members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment at Fort Myer. At the top of each hour, visitors can witness the changing of the guard ceremony.
The Marine Corps War Memorial is one of the most famous statues honoring U.S. Veterans. This bronze statue, designed by Felix De Weldon, depicts Marines raising the U.S. flag over Iwo Jima, and it is dedicated to all Marines who have given their lives for their country.
On Veteran's Day, visitors may want to stop by the Memorial Amphitheater, where there are often special presentations to observe the holiday. In 2012, President Obama spoke at this amphitheater and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The Veteran's Day memorial services are one of three major events that take place in this amphitheater each year; there are also services on Memorial Day and Easter.
The Women in Military Service for America Memorial pays tribute to the two million women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces since the American Revolution. Highlights of this memorial include a computer registry where visitors can look at photographs and memorabilia from the careers of over 250,000 female U.S. soldiers. Other features include:
- An exhibit gallery
- A Hall of Honor
- A theater which shows a movie called "In Defense of a Nation" when other special programming has not been planned.
- An upper terrace, great for sight-seeing
- The Court of Valor, pictured right.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Haunting in its magnitude and simplicity, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is best known for The Wall. There are 60,000 names on this wall, which stretches for over 500 feet of granite paneling. These are the names of those Americans who died or were MIA after the Vietnam War. The nearby Vietnam Women's Memorial is a statue depicting three women with a wounded soldier; most of the female veterans of the Vietnam war were nurses.
World War II Memorial
The World War II Memorial, which resembles a park with its sparkling fountains and a Rainbow Pool, honors the 16 million Americans who served in the U.S. military during World War II. The fifty-six majestic granite pillars that encircle the Rainbow Pool represent the fifty-six states and territories which belonged to the U.S. during World War II. Twenty-four bas-relief panels commemorate events that took place during the war and 4000 gold stars embedded in the Freedom Wall represent the 400,000 soldiers who died during this war.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial
They look as if they are marching along the Pusan Perimeter in the rain - 19 stainless steel statues, draped in ponchos. These are the faces of the Korean War Veterans Memorial, erected in 1995. These life-sized statues make the viewer feels as if she or he has been transported to Korea, and now walks in the footsteps of those brave men and women who fought in the Korean War.
The National Air Force Memorial
The National Air Force Memorial honors those who have served in the U.S. Air Force with this stunning sculpture. Three stainless steel spires reach 270 feet into the air, spreading out like the contrails of Air Force Thunderbird jets.
US Navy Memorial
The U.S. Navy Memorial is best known for a statue called The Lone Sailor. This figure represents every person who has ever served in the U.S. Navy. He overlooks The Granite Sea, a model that replicates the oceans of the world. Two fountain pools also honor sailors all over the world. Nearby, 26 bas-reliefs honor events and personnel that have served in the U.S. Navy.