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Paying Tribute: Veterans Day in Washington, DC
Must-see observances and museum exhibits make for a memorable and moving experience.
Many of the monuments and memorials in the nation’s capital honor servicemen and women, and the city’s museums are packed with important military history that sheds light on the immense sacrifices that American armed forces have made to protect this country. On Veterans Day, commemorations at said memorials and exhibits at said museums make for perfect ways to celebrate and honor the holiday. Here’s a full range of things to do and places to go:
The Marine Corps War Memorial (more commonly known as the Iwo Jima Memorial) is one of the most moving memorials in the DC region. The world-famous statue, which is based on the iconic photograph taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, depicts the six soldiers who raised the second American flag at Iwo Jima in the Japanese Volcano Islands on Feb. 23, 1945, signifying the conclusion of the American campaign in the Pacific during World War II.
Americans can now properly honor some of the bravest soldiers to have ever defended the United States. Located near the U.S. Botanic Garden and in view of the Capitol Building, DC’s newest national memorial was dedicated in 2014. The memorial’s star-shaped fountain with a constant ceremonial flame serves as a tribute to present and future disabled vets.
The gravestones at this national military cemetery, which has been open for over 150 years, are an impactful lesson on the true costs of war. Walk the paths of this historic park or attend the time-honored memorial ceremony. On Nov. 11, a prelude concert begins in the Memorial Amphitheater at 10:30 a.m., which is followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 11 a.m. and an observance program in the amphitheater.
The Women’s Memorial resides at the gateway to the Arlington National Cemetery, and is the only major national memorial to honor women that have defended the U.S. during all eras and in all services. The annual Veterans Day observance at the memorial includes formal military honors, a keynote address, veterans' remarks and a wreath-laying.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial consists of multiple structures that honor those who sacrificed during the three-year conflict that was the Korean War. Images of troops moving by sea, land and air are sandblasted onto the surface of the wall, while a squadron of 19 stainless steel figures, including members from each branch of the armed forces, are situated in the center of the memorial space.
Adjacent to the National Archives in the Penn Quarter, this memorial pays respect to veterans of the Navy. The space includes a commemorative public plaza, a symbolic statue of a Lone Sailor and the Naval Heritage Center. The plaza’s deck includes fountains, flagpole masts and sculptural panels that depict epic Naval achievements.
Many DC visitors, as well as veterans and relatives of those who lost their lives in battle, gather at the black granite memorial, colloquially known as “The Wall,” to honor those who served in the Vietnam War. Many visitors leave personal effects; more than 400,000 items have been collected since the memorial opened to the public. Traditionally, on Veterans Day, a color guard, noted speakers and wreath-laying observances begin at 1 p.m.
The expansive stone, bronze and water memorial on the National Mall at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue honors the 16 million men and women who served and the 400,000 who lost their lives during WWII. The majestic space is perfect for a Veterans Day visit, and it’s especially beautiful under moonlight.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate
Mount Vernon welcomes active, former and retired military with free admission on Veterans Day to experience special programming. The estate salutes veterans with a wreath-laying at Washington’s tomb and a patriotic community concert by barbershop chorus the Harmony Heritage Singers at 11 a.m.
National Museum of American History
The Smithsonian Institution’s cache of Americana displays, The Price of Freedom: Americans at War, features a history of America’s military from the French and Indian Wars to the conflict in the Middle East, exploring the impact of conflict on citizen soldiers, their families and communities. See George Washington’s sword and scabbard in person, and see the chairs used by Generals Lee and Grant during the surrender at Appomattox in 1865.
National Museum of American Jewish Military History
This small museum in Dupont Circle makes for a powerful Veterans Day visit, especially due to its core exhibit, Jews in the American Military. This incredible piece chronicles contributions across the armed services in letters and memorabilia donated by Jewish veterans and their families. The display includes a brain surgery kit from the Civil War, a diary from a Jewish POW and a Torah carried by a Jewish army chaplain on the Burma Trail.
Would you like to explore more of the vital American history to be found around Washington, DC? Learn more about the monuments and memorials in the nation's capital.