Last week’s post on Washington, DC was from the present time or at least in the immediate past, like a few weeks ago. This week, I’ll take you back to my business/pleasure visit to Washington from August 2007. A couple of weeks ago, I was scanning through my photo archives and came across a series of photos from that trip, most haven’t seen the light of day. For me some of the photos are remarkable because I had the opportunity to visit some memorials that I hadn’t visited before; the new WWII Memorial, Korean War Memorial, FDR Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. And then there was the return to the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and the Vietnam Memorial Wall that is always an emotional experience for me. Join me on a brief photo and word tour of this experience.
Let’s start at the Washington Monument, the world’s tallest stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk (a four sided narrow tapering monument that ends in a pyramid shape). The construction of the monument to commemorate George Washington, our first president, began in 1848, halted for 23 years due to the Civil War and lack of funds, was completed in 1884. When completed it was the world’s tallest structure until the Eiffel Tower was completed. It is currently closed (good to know since I planned to ride to the top on my recent trip, would have been a long three year wait!) to repair and modernize the elevator. When visiting Washington, whether driving or flying, the Washington Monument is a visible beacon and landmark to all visitors. Surrounding the Monument are 50 US flags, one for each state. The following are a few photos of the Monument, the last one a night shot.
From the Washington Monument and looking to the West, the US Capitol stands proudly as an enduring symbol of our democracy.
A short walk across the street from the Washington Monument to the north is the White House, the official residence and workplace of the President of the United States since 1800. The White House is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue arguably one of the most famous addresses in the world. It was designed in the neoclassical style influenced by the famous Roman architect Palladio. The White House has been added and refurbished over the year while maintaining it’s original design. Almost every President left their mark on the White House by adding features over the years. Michelle Obama planted the first organic garden and installed bee hives with the honey being used at state dinners and other functions. Now for a trivia question: Which US currency features the White House on the back side? See the answer at the end of this post.
The reporters covering the White House compete to find spots to deliver their stories for the evening news. Here’s a photo of a “gaggle” of reporters and crews (at least their equipment!) on the White House lawn.
Heading west down the Mall from the White House are several of the monuments to presidents and veterans. The Lincoln Memorial is my first stop, alway awe inspiring and humbling.
Every time I visit the Lincoln Memorial, I think of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on that hot day in August 1963 to a crowd of over 250,000 people. And this is what I imagined he saw as he looked across the mass of people to came to hear him.
Nearby is the Korean War Veterans Memorial with a mural wall of images symbolizing 38 soldiers, 38 months the war lasted and the 38 parallel that separates North and South Korea. Then there are the 19 stainless steel statues of a platoon of soldiers on patrol in full combat gear. After some early controversy in its design, this Memorial was completed and dedicated in 1995. I think of my Uncle Marvin who served during this war.
The National World War II Memorial was dedicated to all the Americans that served in the armed forces during this war. The Memorial consists of 56 pillars (one for each state and territory) and a pair of arches (designating the war in the Pacific and across the Atlantic) on a plaza and fountain. The Freedom Wall consists of 4048 gold stars each representing 100 Americans who died in the war. This memorial was opened to the public in 2004 after three years of construction.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors US service members who fought in the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia. The Memorial consists of three parts; the Memorial Wall, The Three Servicemen, and Vietnam Women’s Memorial. The Memorial Wall was the first part completed and is the most well known and recognized feature of the Memorial. The Wall has the names of the service members that were killed during the conflict and those still missing in action. There a lot of symbolism in the design of the wall. First, the names are etched into highly polished stone that reflects the image of visitors as can be seen in this photo.
Second, the walls are sunken into the ground so visitors walk down and up a sloping path along the Wall. For me it’s a very eery feeling especially at night. It’s meant to symbolize “a wound that is closing and healing.”
Third, the Wall is situated so that one side of the wall points to the Washington Monument and the other wall to the Lincoln Memorial as a way to symbolize bringing the past and present together.
Since I served in the Army during Vietnam, the Wall is an emotional experience for me. At each visit I find the name of someone from my home town in North Dakota, Gilbert Bargeman. I didn’t know him very well as he lived way south and I live way north of town and we only attended the same high school for a year or two. Gill was only a couple of months younger than me and while I was preparing to go to college, he enlisted in the Army serving in the infantry. He was killed in Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam just a few weeks before his 19th birthday. He is said to have saved the lives of fellow platoon members the day he died. Rest in peace, Gill.
Since I served in hospital units as a medical lab technician, I encountered a few other service members whose names I’ve forgotten but are engraved in the Wall. These names will be in front of us so future generations will be reminded of the sacrifice they made for their country. Enough said for now, maybe sometime in the future, I’ll share some of experiences and thoughts from that long ago time. All I know is that a visit to the Wall is a way to heal the wounds of war.
Near the Wall are the Three Servicemen Memorial as they stand in solemn tribute to their fallen buddies and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. Most of the women who served in Vietnam were nurses and cared for the wounded and dying.
Leaving the Mall and walking toward the Tidal Basin, visitors come upon the Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial. FDR was the 32nd President of the United States. The Memorial covers over seven acres and reviews twelve years of significant US and World history during his Presidency; the Great Depression, the New Deal, WWII, and his death in 1945. Roosevelt is the longest serving President, having been elected to four four year terms and is considered among the greatest presidents. FDR was stricken with polio in 1921 losing the use of his legs, he was sensitive to the public display of his disability. So designers addressed this concern by placing him in a chair with casters only visible behind the statute.
Our final stop on this visit to Washington, DC is at the Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin as seen in this photo.
All the Memorials in Washington are impressive but I find the Jefferson Memorial a fitting tribute to a fascinating American. Jefferson is one of the Founding Fathers of this country, the principle author of the Declaration of Independence, Governor of Virginia, the first Secretary of State under George Washington, the second Vice President under John Adams, and the third President of the United States. He had a long post presidency from 1809 until his death on July 4, 1826. During this time, he founded the University of Virginia and was prolific writer of letters and editorials that help us know a lot about this great American. The neoclassical memorial uses some of his most famous writings and quotes to grace the walls around the rotunda. I’m a fan of the weekly podcast “The Jefferson Hour” that details and describes some of the beliefs and controversies surrounding this complex person. In my judgement, definitely worth a visit, maybe even more than one to absorb it all. Here’s a photo of the bronze statute of Jefferson.
Well that does it for this blast from the past, a trip down the Mall in Washington, DC. Next week, join me on a visit to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Until then travel safe,
PS: The answer to the trivia question is the $20 bill.