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Washington D.C. Memorials

Updated: Feb 11

(Originally published in the Napa Valley Register)


Do 1940s black and white war movies make you weep? They never fail to pull at my heartstrings and I have a theory to explain these feelings. I believe that the extraordinary, the ultimate and the magnificent touch a certain tender cord within us. Just as I am awed by the majesty and dignity of a mountain range, mesmerized by the mysteriously vast sea, and breath-taken by the passionate notes of Puccini’s Turandot, my heart is pierced by the stories told in these old movies. They are filled with bravery, youth, and innocence - and usually wrapped in a tragic love story.


The Monuments and Memorials at the National Mall in Washington D.C. also pull at my heartstrings. They represent the same extraordinary, ultimate, and magnificence of human courage and spirit through the beauty of sculptures and architecture. I was 19 years old when I first visited. Given that impressionable age, you can imagine how impressed I was. Here are just a few examples:


The Washington Monument, of course, honors George Washington and is the most prominent landmark of the Mall. Made of marble, granite and blue stone gneiss in the shape of an ancient Egyptian obelisk, it is the tallest structure at 555 feet 5 inches high. Fifty flags surround its base symbolizing our 50 states.


The Lincoln Memorial was designed in a style similar to a Greek temple. It has 36 columns representing the states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death. The columns are seven-feet in diameter and stretch 44 feet high. A 19-foot marble statue of Lincoln sits in the center with the words of the Gettysburg Address inscribed on the walls.


The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a dome-shaped rotunda with a 19-foot bronze statue of Jefferson is surrounded by passages from the Declaration of Independence.


The District of Columbia War Memorial commemorates the 26,000 citizens of Washington, D.C. who served in World War I. The domed peristyle Doric temple stands as the only World War 1 Memorial on the Mall and is dedicated solely to local residents.


By 1999, when I returned to D,C., the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials had been built. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a black granite wall inscribed with the names of 58,209 American’s killed or missing in the Vietnam conflict. A life-size bronze statue depicting three young servicemen is located near the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Nearby is the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, a sculpture of two women in uniform tending to the wounds of a male soldier while a third woman kneels nearby.


Ironically, the most memorable Memorial for me was the one dedicated to the “Forgotten War”, the Korean War. It is an expansive memorial including a group of 19 statues depicting soldiers on patrol facing an American flag. The statues were so life-like and the facial expressions sculpted with such care. Dedicated in 1995 to 1.5 million American men and women who served. A granite wall has a mural of the faces of 2,400 unnamed soldiers with a reading that states “Freedom is not free.”


The World War II Memorial, opened to the public in 2004. It’s oval shaped with two 43-foot arches, representing the war's Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Fifty-six pillars represent the states, territories and the District of Columbia. Two sculpted bronze wreaths adorn each pillar. Small fountains sit at the bases of the two arches. Waterfalls surround a wall of 4,000 gold stars, each one represents 100 U.S. deaths in the war. More than two-thirds of the memorial consists of grass, plants and water. A circular garden, called the "Circle of Remembrance," is enclosed by a two-foot-high stone wall.


While those are only a few sights you might like to plan seeing in the future, you can visit our own Memorials at the Veteran’s Home and at Tulocay Cemetary.


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