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10 Ways to Pay Tribute This Veterans Day in Washington, DC
Enjoy a moving Veterans Day experience in DC either in-person or from home
Many of the monuments and memorials in the nation’s capital honor servicemen and women, shedding 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, virtual and in-person commemorations make for ideal ways to celebrate and honor the holiday. Here’s a full range of things to do and places to go (with a mask on) this Veterans Day 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. This year, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund will host a virtual ceremony at 1 p.m. on Veterans Day and asking its supporters to send videos of their recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
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. Note that you can also take in a virtual tour of this stunning site; if you visit in-person, please make sure to wear a face covering and maintain social distancing guidelines.
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. This year, you can still pay tribute at those memorials, and the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy is open for visits as well. The cemetery is also offering its tram tours, which depart at the top of every hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The tour includes visits to the aforementioned JFK gravesite as well as Memorial Avenue and features historical interpretation throughout. Social distancing is in effect and masks are required for all guests.
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 World War II. 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. If you visit the memorial or choose to attend the observance, please maintain social distance and wear a face covering.
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 (currently closed due to COVID-19). 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. Currently, the museum is open to pedestrian access only - visitors can park along Southgate Street for a short walk to the site. Please maintain social distance and wear a face covering during your visit.
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 will salute veterans with honored guests laying flowers at Washington’s tomb, a patriotic community concert by barbershop chorus the Harmony Heritage Singers and letter-writing to active service members. Please read Mount Vernon's COVID-19 safety guidelines before booking your visit.
Smithsonian National Museum of American History
At 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. Advance timed passes are required to enter the museum and make sure to read its safety guidelines and requirements before visiting.
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. Please wear a mask and maintain social distance during your visit.
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. Advance timed passes are required for entry. Please observe the museum's safety guidelines and wear a mask during your visit.
The National Museum of the American Indian (which recently reopened its doors) will host a virtual ceremony to mark the completion of the Native American Veterans Memorial. Fittingly, this event will be held on Veterans Day. Both the memorial and ceremony will honor the tremendous service and sacrifice made by Native veterans and their families. Once the memorial is unveiled, you’ll be able to visit the intimate space, as Harvey Pratt’s design was specifically tailored to inspire remembrance, reflection and healing. Today, more than 31,000 Native Americans, Native Hawaiians and Alaska Natives serve on active duty. More than 140,000 veterans identify as Native. And for the first time, the bravery and selflessness of these individuals can be honored on a national scale, within sight of the U.S. Capitol.