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10 Ways to Pay Tribute This Veterans Day in Washington, DC
Must-see observances, museum exhibits and more make for a memorable and moving Veterans Day experience.
Many of the monuments and memorials in the nation’s capital honor servicemen and women, while the city’s museums are packed with important military history that sheds light on the immense sacrifices that the U.S. Armed Forces have made to protect this country. On Veterans Day (Nov. 11), as well as the days before and after, commemorations at DC's memorials and museum exhibits make for the perfect ways to celebrate and honor the holiday. Here’s a full range of things to do and places to go this Veterans Day weekend in Washington, DC.
Many DC visitors, as well as veterans and relatives of those who lost their lives during the conflict, gather at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a 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. Each year on Veterans Day a color guard, noted speakers and wreath-laying observances begin at 1 p.m. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Women's Memorial, complete with a series of commemorative events on Nov. 10-11.
A visit to the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial is a powerful reminder of the cost of war. This national memorial honors the sacrifice of those who were disabled in service to this country across all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. The centerpiece of the memorial is the star-shaped fountain with a ceremonial flame, while tributes and stories of servicemen and women are told through 48 etched glass panels and four bronze sculptures. Located near the U.S. Botanic Garden and in view of the U.S. Capitol, the best way to get to the memorial is by taking the Metro to either Federal Center SW or Capitol South on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines.
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. Each year on Veterans Day, 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 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 U.S. Armed Forces, are situated in the center of the memorial space.
The National World War II Memorial is an expansive stone, bronze and water memorial on the National Mall at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue. The memorial 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 during sunset and under moonlight. This year, Veterans Day observances at the memorial begin at 9 a.m.
Adjacent to the National Archives in Penn Quarter, the United States Navy Memorial pays respect to veterans who served in the U.S. 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.
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.
Across the Potomac River near Arlington National Cemetery is the U.S. Air Force Memorial, which honors the service and heritage of the men and women of the United States Air Force with three stainless steel spires. Each year on Veterans Day the memorial hosts a wreath-laying ceremony with a musical accompaniment from a military band.
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, a patriotic community concert by barbershop chorus the Harmony Heritage Singers and you can write a thank you letter to an active duty service member.
Smithsonian 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, as well as the chairs used by generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War surrender ceremony 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 its core exhibit, Jews in the American Military. This incredible exhibit 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.
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
This state-of-the-art museum addresses nearly every aspect of the African American experience through its astounding collection of artifacts, including the military contributions of African Americans. The Double Victory exhibit chronicles the military service of African Americans from the American Revolution through current conflicts.
National Museum of the United States Navy
Housed in the Old Naval Gun Factory, this family-friendly museum on the Capitol Riverfront showcases artifacts dating as far back as the War of 1812, including a Civil War ship wheel, Korean War-era uniforms and the foremast fighting top of the U.S.S. Constitution.
From Nov. 10-12, this interactive museum dedicated to the power of the First Amendment offers free admission to veterans and active duty members of the U.S. military, plus one guest. Service members should present their military ID, another form of military service credential or wear their uniforms in order to take advantage of this offer.
This series of events takes place over Veterans Day weekend and serves as a prelude to the eventual opening of the National World War One Memorial in DC’s Pershing Park. Saturday offers a tribute to Native Americans that fought in World War I (11 a.m.) and on Sunday, military and veterans will be given a salute complete with a film screening, medal presentation and remarks. Veterans Day brings the WWI Armistice Film Festival, which will showcase an array of films that focus on the conflict.