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Monuments and Memorials in Washington, DC

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One of the other things I love about DC are the memorials which commemorate so many historic figures and events in our nation’s history. Whether you visit during the day or at night, you will no doubt appreciate their grandeur and significance.

Highest on our list, of course, was a visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the first national memorial to honor a non-president and a man of color. Located on the city’s Tidal Basin, the memorial is fashioned in a crescent geometric pattern within a trilateral configuration that incorporates awe-inspiring views of the Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson Memorials. And as the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s historic“I Have a Dream” speech nears on August 28, 2013, it strikes a chord that his statue is within sight of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered that speech.

The Memorial is a commanding presence on the D.C. landscape, encapsulating the ideals of justice, hope, democracy and love – which appeared over and over in Dr. King’s written and oratorical messages.

Each element of the Memorial—The Mountain of Despair, “despair” being the previous state of our nation; The Stone of Hope, the focal point of the memorial with a 30-foot, life-like statue of Dr. King; and North and South Walls, featuring more than a dozen poignant inscriptions from Dr. King’s speeches and sermons, send their own distinctive, yet collectively powerful messages.

Designed to honor our 16th President, the Lincoln Memorial is equally amazing. Just climbing the impressive steps offering spectacular views of the city, and standing below his soaring 19-foot marble image (set high above its structural pedestal) is awe-inspiring. “Inside” (it’s really an open plaza except for the gift shops tucked inside both ends) of the Greek-inspired temple memorial you’ll find a series of historic murals depicting Emancipation and Unification, as well as Lincoln’s Gettysburg and Second Inaugural Addresses.

Fashioned in the shape of a rotunda, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a tribute to our 3rd President and author of the Declaration of Independence. His statue, also soaring some 19 feet tall, is encircled by many of his well-known works as well as select passages from the Declaration.

Most may not know that the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is actually the city’s second FDR Memorial (the first, a small marble block situated on the grounds of the National Archives Building), standing in tribute to our 32nd President. Encompassing just over seven-acres, the memorial incorporate numerous expressive sculptures and water elements, the latter an important part of Roosevelt’s life since childhood.

Another of the city’s most recognizable memorials is the Washington Monument honoring President George Washington. Towering a staggering 555 feet into the air, the marble structure representing an Egyptian obelisk is an enduring DC symbol. Although visitors can tour the inside, the monument is temporarily closed for repairs due to the earthquake that occurred not far from here in 2011.

Humility and great gratitude are what I felt at both the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall and the World War II Memorial.

The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall, honoring those who served in the Vietnam War is, in a word, sobering. I don’t think I have ever been to a public place with so many people and could almost hear a pin drop. Whether you were born before, during or after the war, it is quite an unbelievable experience to have the ability to view, and touch, the well-over 58,000 names of the women and men who gave their lives in service engraved along the walls.

Everywhere I looked people were taking pictures of loved ones’ names, outlining their names with paper and pencil, leaving mementos and/or silently shedding tears of sorrow and gratitude. If you have young children, this is a very inspirational and educational way to demonstrate to them both the cost of war and the deep commitment of some to freedom.

Commemorating the sacrifice—both in service and lives lost, 16 million and 400,000-plus, respectively—the World War II Memorial tells the story of the soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors, both American and with Allied forces, that fought during this historic war.

The elements of the memorial are remarkable, encompassing two architecturally masterful Pavilions – the Atlantic and Pacific; a central Rainbow Pool with beautiful water features; a field of gold stars, 4,048 in all and each representing 100 American military deaths; a pillar and two wreaths (the latter symbolizing the agricultural and industrial resources offered in the war effort) for each state of the Union and U.S. Territory, arranged in alternating order around the field of gold stars for when they entered the Union; 24 bronze bas relief panels, and close to 17,000 individual granite stones. Open 24/7, the memorial is a must see.

Written by Lysa Allman-Baldwin 

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