Washington DC’s Memorials

What Memorials Are in Washington DC?

From iconic leaders to military heroes, these memorials are a moving and educational experience. Take a look at some of the most popular ones to visit during your stay in Washington DC.

The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million men and women who served overseas and the 400,000 who died. Many visitors take pencil rubbings of their loved ones’ names at the memorial, connecting the past and present.

George Mason Memorial

Whether it’s in a literal or figurative sense, monuments and memorials communicate with their visitors. Those messages can be a call to action (as in the case of war memorials) or they can encourage visitors to reflect and learn about their country’s history.

George Mason, the Founding Father who wrote Virginia’s Declaration of Rights and helped inspire the United States Bill of Rights, is remembered in a tranquil park-like area that sits near the Jefferson Memorial. The statue of Mason on a bench with his book appears to be deep in thought.

A nearby plaque explains that he read the works of Cicero, a Roman political orator who inspired Mason to write his document advocating for protecting individual liberty. The campus’s new Enslaved People of George Mason memorial, scheduled to open in 2021, will provide a fuller account of the complex legacy of Mason, who championed freedom but owned slaves at his home, Gunston Hall. The memorial will include the silhouettes of Penny, an enslaved girl, and James, Mason’s manservant.

World War I Memorial

The World War I Memorial is a moving tribute to the nearly 4.7 million Americans who served in this devastating conflict. The monument’s central sculpture, A Soldier’s Journey, tells the story of a young American who reluctantly answers the call to service, embarks on a dangerous mission, and sees his friends killed or wounded. It is the largest free-standing bronze relief in the world.

Many relatives come to this memorial to take pencil rubbings of their loved ones’ names on paper and leave flags for remembrance. There are also symbols used next to the names that indicate whether a person was confirmed dead, missing, or recovered alive.

The Jefferson Memorial is off the beaten path compared to the more popular memorials in Washington, DC but it’s well worth the visit. It is across the Tidal Basin from the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial and has impressive classical architecture inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. It also has a lot of symbolism including pillars representing the two areas of battle and 56 stars, one star for each state plus the District of Columbia and 8 overseas territories.

Korean War Veterans Memorial

The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC is dedicated to soldiers who fought for the United States during the conflict in Korea between 1950 and 1953. The memorial was completed in 1995 and features a series of 19 stainless steel statues of soldiers by Vermont sculptor Frank Gaylord. Each soldier is positioned on patrol on a plot of land that is covered with juniper bushes to represent rough terrain and topped by a flag.

The statues are arranged in a triangular pattern to point toward the flag and the apex of the triangle is surrounded by a Pool of Remembrance. The Pool of Remembrance is a shallow reflecting pool and along the walkway surrounding it are plaques inscribed with statistics about American and United Nations military killed, missing in action, and held as prisoners of war during the war.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial is one of the most visited memorials in the National Mall and it’s a popular spot for tourists and locals to reflect on the war. In fact, president-elect Joe Biden visited the memorial while visiting his home state of Pennsylvania in November 2017.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of the most visited sites in the National Park System. It commemorates the 58,000 men and women who died in the war and provides an opportunity to reflect on the nation’s involvement in that conflict. It is a place of healing.

A 29-year-old Army veteran named Jan Scruggs conceived the idea for the memorial, which would list the names of those who died in the war. He formed a nonprofit corporation to raise funds and consulted with such figures as antiwar presidential candidate George McGovern and Gen. William Westmoreland, who commanded U.S. troops in Vietnam.

When the memorial was completed, it drew a mixed reaction. Some veterans objected to its spartan design, which lacked the standard features of a memorial: heroic statues and stirring words. But others were moved by its emotional power and by the sense of community that arose among visitors. The Wall soon became a destination where families and friends came to find the names of their loved ones. They left remembrances, such as flowers, notes, and treasured keepsakes.

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