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Friday, April 22, 2011

Tour of Washington DC, Part 3

Next we viewed the memorial to the Vietnam War. There are some beautiful sculptures and a wall with many, many names on. I took some photos for a few friends who served in ‘Nam.
Part of the Vietnam War Memorial

Another sculpture in the Vietnam War Memorial

We also visited the controversial WW2 memorial which was only completed a few years ago. Senator Bob Dole was apparently instrumental in getting the memorial completed after such a delay. He is also instrumental in organising for busloads of veterans to visit the memorial. The day we were there, there were quite a few busloads of these vets. It was so sad to see how frail and infirm some were but I bet they were proud to be there!

Veterans and carers waiting for their charter buses after a long visit to the memorial

The wall from a distance...all those stars!
 This memorial is also huge and a fitting tribute to all those service people who served in that war. It consists of many pillars that represent states and protectorates where the soldiers came from. The various theatres of the war are also represented on pillars. There is also a wall covered with stars. Each star represents 200 personnel who died or who were MIA during the war. These personnel numbered 405,399; to me, an incredible number to die in one war!
Our tour then took us to the state of Virginia and more specifically to Arlington National Cemetery and what a privilege that was to visit. Because we weren’t in a big tour bus, our tour could drive through the cemetery and I think we saw more because of this. Did you know that this cemetery is the ‘front yard’ of General Lee’s (of civil war fame) former home called ‘Arlington? The first section we toured was from the civil war and of course there were just so many little white headstones. Most were ‘standard’ headstones with a curved/rounded top. Some though, were pointed and we were told this story. They are confederate graves and they didn’t want ‘Yankees sitting on their headstones’ so the pointy bit is supposed to prevent that! Lol

Looking through the trees at some of the many service personnel graves
We visited the Kennedy plot which has JFK, 2 small babies who died very early after birth and Jackie. There is a memorial flame there which burns all the time...very sad and poignant and I watched with interest a group of high school students who were also visiting...they displayed a very dignified and respectful demeanour. We also visited Bobby and Teddy Kennedy’s graves.
The Kennedy grave plot, with the 2 babies on the outside of their parents

Then we were driven towards the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and we walked the last little distance. It was time for the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. One of my blogger friends, Claud from the 'Casa del gato' blog had previously told me what an impact on her the ‘Changing of the Guard Ceremony’ always had so I was really looking forward to seeing that. It was to be the last part of our tour and what a finale! It was also poignant and dignified. Apparently these guards wear a special and smart uniform too. And I’m so glad we got to see it, even though it was raining through a lot of the ceremony.

On the right of the photo are seated some veterans

Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

As we were driving through the cemetery to exit we were to witness something very special. That day there happened to be two ‘big’ funerals at Arlington. Bill, our guide said, to get the military bands it would have to be someone with a rank of general. As well as the bands, the people who were being buried also had the honour of their coffin being placed on a caisson which was drawn by a team of magnificent was such a spectacular sight!
A coffin being carried on the caisson


Claud said...

I'm so glad you got to see the changing of the guards. It's very precise and the Marines who are chosen are the best in their class. It's very rigorous and doesn't get postponed for anything. It's so moving and magnificent at the same time. My favorite at Arlington.

Kayly said...

Arlington is on mybucket list. I had heard its story several years ago and it made me really want to see it. It's just one of 'those' special places.