America’s Memory Lane Part II
February 13, 2012
What an experience it is to sit on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and take in the views surrounding the site. Even today, I remember my awe and appreciation for those who created this, our country’s Historical Memory Lane. Looking out across the pool below Lincoln’s statue, I could see the rippled image of the Washington Monument reflected in the water, from its site across the grassy Mall. Lining both sides of the pool are rows are trees, where people relaxed in the shade, enjoying their lunch or feeding the ducks. School kids and teachers, men in business suits and uniformed servicemen, city workers and tourists dashed in every direction … so taking a deep breath, I struck out again to explore.
My husband is a Vietnam veteran so I was very interested in seeing the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Following the tree-lined pathway, led me past the statue of three Vietnam soldiers, rifles in hand, comrades in war. Rising out along the path, the Wall begins, growing higher as it extends along the walkway. The dark stone, inscribed in white, has the names of those lost or missing. It is truly breathtaking and emotional, as name after name fills the wall. A middle-aged lady had a piece of paper laid over an inscription, carefully using a pencil to rub the letters from underneath. As the image appeared on her paper, I wondered how she was related to the name. One long-stem rose leaned on the Wall, a silent memorial and other flowers were left, sprinkled along its entire length.
Continuing along the path, I approached a beautiful garden at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Here, life-sized statues of a group of helmeted military men, draped in rain ponchos and carrying rifles, march in two lines through the green undergrowth. Running along one side, a tall, gray mirror-finished wall reflects the soldiers on their wary patrol. As I looked at the wall more closely, almost ghostly images of all types of people looking outward are etched into the mirror-like surface. I realized that my image too, from across the walkway, was reflected in the wall, making me part of the artwork. It reminded me that each of us, in some way or another, has been touched by our country’s military history. This is an outstanding Memorial and worthy of those who served, fought, and died in the Korean War.
While in Washington, D.C., I not only walked a zillion miles, but also discovered a great bus service that will take you to the major areas of interest. For a reasonable fee, you can ride all day, hopping off and on at lots of stops, as it makes its tour loop. I happily took a bus out to Arlington Cemetery and arrived just in time to see a special ceremony conducted at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Four students, accompanied by a uniformed officer, marched from the memorial building and placed a wreath on a stand before the marble tomb. Standing on the viewing steps, I could look out beyond the Tomb, across the formal hedgerows, walkways and river and see Washington, D.C. in the distance. I witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb, where the precision of each step and movement is dictated and meaningful. The dedication these soldiers display during the ceremony is beyond belief and truly an honor to watch.
Throughout Arlington, rows upon rows of white headstones create flowing lines across the green hillsides. Under a cherry tree, along one walkway, I came across a headstone with three tiny American flags stuck in the ground beside it. On it’s face, etched no differently then all the others, it read: Audie L. Murphy, Texas, Major Infantry, World War II. Within Arlington’s grounds, too, John F. Kennedy’s eternal flame burns, visited by millions of people each year. Memorials for the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttles stand prominently not far from the museum and Coliseum areas. I cannot express the emotions I felt as I toured the Cemetery and everywhere I looked that afternoon, a fine sprinkling of cherry blossoms drifted on the light breeze … softening the harsh reality of where I was. I said a quiet prayer and hopped the next bus that headed to town.
I spent the next few hours at the American History Museum, enjoying the exhibits and displays. From the exquisite ball gowns of the First Ladies to Kermit the Frog, and from Lincoln’s top hat to George Washington’s teeth, each hall and room was filled with historic items. I even enjoyed looking into Julia Child’s kitchen, recreated down to the last cooking spoon.
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I know that I could have spent days touring the multiple museums both in and around the area but my time and my feet were done. I guess I’ll just have to visit again (in comfortable shoes) and enjoy another trip down America’s Memory Lane in Washington, D.C.