Washington’s war memorials are more than places to reflect on war and peace, they’re places to think about freedom and what it means to be an American. Most of Washington, D.C.’s war memorials are clustered near the National Mall, a great expanse of lawn. If you can, visit at night when the memorials look even more magnificent. — Kathryn McKay
Korean War Veterans Memorial
West end of Mall at Daniel French and Independence Avenue
Nineteen larger-than-life stainless steel soldiers reflect the gravity of a war that more than 1.5 million Americans served in from during the early 1950s. There are few words here, which makes the statement engraved in granite even more poignant: “Freedom is not free.”
National World War II Memorial
17th Street, between Constitution and Independence Avenues
Granite pillars bearing bronze wreaths, fountains, bas-reliefs and a field of 4,000 gold stars honor the 400,000 Americans who died, the 16 million Americans who served in World War II and even the Americans who supported the war effort at home. At the National Park Service kiosk near the memorial, rangers are available to answer questions.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
The most visited war memorial in Washington was also its most controversial. When the memorial opened in 1982, critics called it a “black gash of shame.” But “the Wall,” with more than 58,000 names of soldiers who died etched in granite, is still the most visited war memorial in Washington. Some visitors are surprised to learn that the memorial was designed by a 21-year-old student and that only eight of the names belong to women.
United States Marine Corps War Memorial
1400 North Meade Street
Arlington, VA 22209
Called the “Iwo Jima,” this memorial is based on one of the most famous photographs in American history. Five Marines and a Navy corpsman raise the stars and stripes atop Mt. Suribachi on the Japanese island Iwo Jima. On Tuesday nights during the summer, the Marine Corps march in parades at sunset.
Those interested in war memorials might also want to visit the United States Air Force Memorial and the United States Navy Memorial. The Pentagon Memorial, also called the 9/11 Memorial, opened in 2008 as a tribute to Americans who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.