The hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery, located just across the Potomac River from Washington in Arlington, Virginia, is the final resting place of over 300,000 soldiers and veterans. One of its most moving memorials is the Tomb of the Unknowns, which holds unidentified remains of soldiers killed in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. The tomb is guarded around the clock by sentinels, and several times a day a Changing of the Guard ceremony honors these fallen soldiers, “known but to God.” Staff at the visitor’s center can help locate the grave sites of loved ones.- Photo by Jennuine Captures
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Pictured: Iwo Jima Memorial (USMC War Memorial)
The Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virginia depicts the iconic 1945 photograph of Marines raising the American flag on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. The memorial is dedicated to all the U.S. Marines who have lost their lives in defense of the country since 1775. Tuesday evenings during the summer, the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and the Marine Silent Drill Platoon present precision drills on the memorial’s parade deck.
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Pictured: Pentagon Memorial
On September 11, 2001, 184 people were killed at the nation’s military headquarters, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, when terrorists hijacked a plane leaving from Dulles International Airport and crashed it into the building. The victims were both military and civilians; men, women, and children. This tragedy was one of four coordinated terrorist hijacked plane attacks on that day, in which the World Trade Center in New York City was also destroyed, and another plane, diverted from hitting another landmark by the determination of its passengers, crashed in Pennsylvania. A memorial to the victims opened to the public in 2008. Each cantilevered bench symbolizes one of the dead.- Photo by Destination DC
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Pictured: Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The stark, sobering Vietnam Veterans Memorial presents the names of over 58,000 U.S. servicemembers who died in the Vietnam War, etched in a V-shaped wall of polished black stone, a site where visitors can literally reflect on the war’s toll, and locate the names of fallen friends and family members. The memorial was dedicated in 1982. Two years later, a statue depicting three servicemen was placed nearby, adding a human dimension to the more abstract wall.- Photo by Michael Kleinberg
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Pictured: Vietnam Women's Memorial
Over 11,000 women served in the Vietnam War, most of them as medical personnel. A statue honoring them—Washington’s first military memorial dedicated to women veterans—was unveiled in 1993. The statue, designed by sculptor Glenna Goodacre, depicts three women, one tending to a wounded soldier.
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Pictured: National World War II Memorial
The World War II Memorial honors all the 16 million Americans who served during the Second World War, and especially the more than 400,000 who lost their lives. The fallen are represented by 4,048 gold stars, each star standing for 100 war dead. Granite columns symbolize the American states, districts and territories behind the united military effort, and bas-relief images and the carved names of battles depict key moments in the long war.- Photo by Destination DC
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Pictured: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (100 Raoul Wallenberg Place SW), which opened in 1993, is a living memorial to the Holocaust, which not only tells the story of the Nazi Germany’s 1933-1945 campaign to persecute and exterminate European Jews and other minority populations, but also promotes tolerance and awareness in an effort to prevent future genocides and hate crimes. The museum’s exhibits are sobering and shocking, yet are vital reminders of the evils of hate and prejudice and of a historic tragedy that should never be forgotten.
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Pictured: Lafayette Square (White House)
Lafayette Square, a public park on the northern side of the White House named for the Marquis de La Fayette, a French general and Revolutionary War hero, has an equestrian statue of President Andrew Jackson at its center. Because of its proximity to the Executive Mansion, it is a frequent site of protests and demonstrations of all kinds.
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Pictured: African American Civil War Memorial
The African American Civil War Memorial, on the plaza at 10th and U Streets NW in the U Street neighborhood, pays tribute to the little-known heroes of the United States Colored Troops, who fought for liberty in the Union Army. The statue, dedicated in 1998, is titled “The Spirit of Freedom.” Sculptor Ed Hamilton designed a two-sided bronze tableau, one side depicting an African-American family bidding farewell to their soldier son, the other with life-sized bas-relief images of three soldiers and one sailor. Behind the statue, a wall of honor lists the names of 209,145 brave members of the Colored Troops. For more information on this fascinating period of Washington and American history, visit the nearby African American Civil War Museum (1925 Vermont Ave., NW).
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Pictured: Washington Monument
555 feet high, the Washington Monument is one of the capital’s most recognizable landmarks. The obelisk honors the nation’s first president. There is a distinct difference in color between the bottom third and upper two-thirds of the monument; this is because a shortage of funds halted its construction in 1854, and when the project resumed 25 years later, builders used marble from a different quarry. An observation deck offers unparalleled views of the city, but due to damage sustained in a 2011 earthquake (a very rare occurrence in Washington), the monument is closed to the public until further notice.
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Pictured: The Star Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
The U.S. national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” tells the story of the raising of the American flag over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, in celebration of a victory over British forces during the War of 1812. Poet Francis Scott Key witnessed the flag flying and wrote what would become the anthem’s lyrics. That very same flag is in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where visitors may view its “broad stripes and bright stars” in a display case specially designed to prevent damage from light or humidity.
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Pictured: U.S. Navy Memorial
The U.S. Navy Memorial, located on Pennsylvania Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets, NW, honors past and current members of the United States Navy. The memorial features a large central plaza inlaid with a map of the world’s oceans, and encircled with bas-relief plaques depicting great moments in Naval history. At the edge of the plaza stands a statue of “The Lone Sailor.” The Naval Heritage Center, located in one of the buildings overlooking the memorial (701 Pennsylvania Avenue), offers exhibits, films, and other materials on the history and achievements of the U.S. Navy.