“The sanctity of our battlefields, monuments, and veterans institutions is of utmost importance to preserve military history and pay respect to those who fought.” Henry Waxman
One of the perks of having an “almost-empty-nest” is the ability to travel more frequently. As it happens, the opportunity for an extended weekend away from home has happened a few times this fall. Most recently, I tagged along with my husband on a trip to Maryland.
I had never been there before, and we had a great time getting to our destination. Driving through Ohio, I was manning the interior controls of the rental car, and almost cooked us inside out when I turned on the heated seats full blast while trying to find the air conditioning. Fun times – always a laugh a minute with yours truly.
Traveling through Ohio was eye-opening. As we headed east, the terrain was becoming more breath-taking as the mountains of Pennsylvania came into view. The fall colors were beyond brilliant, and I couldn’t get over the majestic views. It’s hard to get a great photo traveling on a turn-pike, but what I was unable to record with my camera I will retain forever in my memory.
As we drew closer to the Maryland state line, I began to get excited by the interstate signs directing us to Washington and Baltimore. Places I have heard of and seen on TV, but had never seen in real life. As a military spouse, it was exciting to be driving through areas of the country rich in history and patriotism.
There were a few highlights of the trip that I wanted to share, because it makes Veterans Day more meaningful to me.
It’s impossible to not be humbled when entering into the nation’s capital. On our way into Alexandria, Virginia, where we were meeting our son and his wife for dinner, I was rather fascinated that within ten minutes we were leaving Maryland, passing through D.C., and then into Virginia. Crossing the Potomac River was pretty amazing, since I have heard about it since elementary school. I could see the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument from the freeway. How impressive it was – even from a distance. And yes, as we were driving along and seeing exit signs for Annapolis, Pennsylvania Avenue and Andrews Air Force Base, I was getting a little giddy about being on patriotic holy ground.
When we were finally able to walk the National Mall, I was excited and humbled at the same time. Here I was walking where others had gathered and marched. Old buildings filled with history; beautiful architecture. All the museums – I think you’d need a solid week just to take in everything on Madison! On a bright, sunny fall afternoon, we walked with people from all nations and backgrounds, taken in by curiosity of the past and hope for the future.
Getting to the Washington Monument was exciting, and it reminded me of the anticipation I felt when we were in England a few years ago. We could see Big Ben off in the distance, and we just kept walking towards it. It was the same here in Washington – such anticipation when we first started toward the monument off in the distance. Each step we took got us closer to so many memorials and monuments. We were running out of daylight, but were able to see the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. At the foot of the Washington Monument, we looked out over the hill and saw the White House. It was so pretty, especially as dusk turned to evening and we could see the lights glowing.
One of the most humbling moments of the trip, however, was visiting the World War II Memorial. This is an absolute must-see. It is a beautiful and fitting tribute to the men and women who fought so valiantly. You couldn’t help but be filled with patriotic pride and a humbling thank-you for what they went through during that time. I can only imagine how amazing it would have been to be at this memorial on Veterans Day or Memorial Day, and to be able to thank the visiting veterans for their service.
We ended our Patriotic Tour with a visit to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania. Though the passengers weren’t military veterans, they truly were heroes for bringing that aircraft down and saving the lives of who knows how many. In fact, their sacrifice may have even saved some of the historic buildings, monuments and memorials that we were privileged to visit. I don’t know if it was the icing on the emotional cake, but seeing the crash site and re-living the events of September 11, 2001 – which eventually changed my own family’s history – this memorial was particularly moving for both me and my husband.
It’s funny the places my mind will go after such a great trip. In the moment, while experiencing all the sights, I was wowed and amazed and acting like a typical tourist. I can’t even tell you how many pictures I snapped and how many “ooos and ahhhs” I uttered. But it is in the quiet, reflective moments afterwards where a trip like this really sinks in. When you read history books, you visualize; you see occasional photos and you numb your brain with facts and dates. But when you get the chance to walk where history was made, to breathe it in, to see where patriots have made a difference, you become aware of the sacrifices of so many. You become thankful for the freedoms you have. And you can’t thank those heroes enough, especially our veterans, who sign a blank check ensuring us of those freedoms. Every. Single. Day.
With heartfelt thanks, Happy Veterans Day.
© Lynne Cobb – 2015
Have you had the chance to visit our nation’s capitol? Share your experience in the comment section!