Memorial Parks and Arlington Cemetery

We spent our last afternoon in DC taking in the country's tributes to the conflicts of the past. We explored the National Mall and Memorial Parks, and ventured over the river to Arlington Cemetery in Virginia.

We started with the Washington Monument, an obelisk in memory of George Washington, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and first American President.

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From the Washington Monument you get a clear view all the way across the National Mall to the Lincoln Memorial at its westernmost edge.

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Next we came to the World War Two Memorial with pillars for every state and territory that participated in the war effort, and two archways to represent the two battlefronts: Atlantic and Pacific.

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One star for every 100 000 American soldiers who lost their lives on the battlefields of WWII. "Here We Have the Price of Freedom."

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The Korean War Memorial is less abstract, and shows us the face of the soldier.

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The Vietnam Wall Memorial is perhaps the most abstract, but it is also the most clear. This long wall nestled into the ground is simply decorated with the names of each and every person who lost their life in the Vietnam War.

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Many people felt that the Wall lacked a human connection so a sculpture of three soldiers was added opposite the Wall. The sculptures personify the victims visually, but it is the names on the Wall that really bring home the magnitude of their loss.

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Lastly, we made our way over the Potomac River into Virginia to the Arlington Military Cemetery. Here is where you'll find the graves of countless military figures from generals to soldiers going back as far as the Civil War. A particularly notable site is the resting place of John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy Onassis.   

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If you climb to the the top of the hill, you can look out over the whole of Arlington Cemetery and spot the Washington Monument in the distance.

This land was once the home of General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army. His property was claimed by the US Government during the Civil War and turned into the military cemetery it is today. The family home still stands at the top of the hill and has been dedicated as a memorial to Robert Lee.

Visitors can tour the house with a guide and learn more about this complex man who was so pivotal in American history. I never knew that Lee was asked to command the Union Army and was reluctant to resign his post with the government and join the Confederate cause.

 Arlington House is the only American memorial to someone who fought a war against the US Government, but, as our guide explained, the memorial serves to honour he work Lee did to reunite the country after the Civil War had ended.

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After a somewhat sombre but important day, we headed back downtown to the W Hotel. We unwound on their rooftop patio with a glass of wine and sat back to enjoy our final night in Washington with the White House glimmering brightly in the distance. 

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Goodnight DC!