Visiting a war memorial helps to personalize the horror and effects of war. I have been to several, and they moved and impressed me more than I imagined.
Arlington National Cemetery
Located just outside Washington, DC, on 612 acres of rolling and pastoral grounds, are the gravesites of John F. Kennedy and 200,000 other Americans who died in wars such as Vietnam, World Wars I and II, the Korean War and more recently the Gulf War. It also houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which is guarded 24 hours a day. To be in this peaceful and beautiful setting and to see row after row after row of grave stones creates quite a solemn and reverent mood.
The Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Memorials
Both are located on the Mall in Washington, DC – and a few minutes walk from each other. Both are quite unique and moving but the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has special meaning to me because a high school friend of mine, John Corr, has his name etched into that impersonal yet moving marble wall. I have never had an experience like my first visit to Wall! It is an experience of:
- slowly walking along a black marble wall and seeing over 58,000 names inscribed on it representing the Americans who died during that conflict – fifty eight thousand!;
- seeing the effect the wall has on other visitors – searching for someone they used to know, rubbing their fingers across the name when they find it and wondering what it all means;
- seeing people “rubbing” a name onto a piece of paper to create a keepsake they can take away with them;
- seeing the flowers, the letters, the poems and other mementos that were left close to the name of a fallen loved one.
An event like visiting The Wall can cause us to reflect on the dreadfulness of war and commit to ensure such horror never happens again. One can only shake one’s head and commit to do what one can to ensure such horror never happens again. Here are a few sites that can give one a sense of the Wall from afar.
- sc94.ameslab.gov/tour/vetmem.html is a site that shows the wall, gives a brief history of how the wall came to be and provides directions to it.
- www.geocities.com/Pentagon/Quarters/4800/thewall.html is a site where one can search a Vietnam Memorial Database for individuals who died in that conflict – by name, by city etc.
- www.virtualwall.org is a site that allows one to search for a veteran’s name and then to leave a personal remembrances about them or to view remembrances previously left. The emotion in these remembrances is both raw and wonderful.
- The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall Page is dedicated to honoring those who died in the Vietnam War. Since it first went on line in 1996 it has evolved into something more. It is now also a place of healing for those affected by one of the most divisive wars in our nation’s history. It has hundreds of links to Vietnam-related educational, events, memorial and POW/MIA web sites.
The Holocaust Museum
My first thought after having visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC was that those who were exterminated during World War II would be very proud of the museum. The creators of the Museum did an incredible job of conveying the history, happenings and horrors of The Holocaust. The museum’s news articles, film clips, voices of the survivors, and physical remnants from extermination camps helped to illustrate the horror of it. If you go to DC and do nothing else, go to the Holocaust Museum. Hopefully you won’t come out the same. And please, if you have children, take them to this museum if they are old enough so that they can begin to understand what happened and to think about it as they grow up. As horrific as it was/is, it happened and more important than scaring a child is to prevent anything even close to this from ever happening again.
Click here to go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website.