Each war has devastating and destroying consequences for the entire nation. Wars are not easy to survive, and are hard to recall and to talk about, especially for those people who have lived during that difficult time. Thankful to the soldiers and war veterans we live now in a free and successful country. We all owe our veterans and the least we can do for them is to remember their act of bravery and to know and respect the history of that times. A simple word of thanks to the veteran or the family member for his or her sacrifice, participation in the social programs for veterans or simply visiting war monuments – anyone who cares can choose an activity to show gratitude and compassion. Heroism and fortitude of American soldiers are immortalized in the Great War Memorial and in the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.
Both memorials are outdoor monuments located in the same area, however, the World War II Memorial is larger, better known and attracts more visitors from all states. “The World War II Memorial honors the service of sixteen million members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, the support of countless millions on the home front, and the ultimate sacrifice of 405,399 Americans”.
The World War II Memorial is an outdoor coliseum with marble columns. The place is neat and there is a sense of reverence all around. Some people visit the memorial as a part of Washington sightseeing, others as a tribute to their family members who participated in the war. Entire families, including children walk around, take pictures and discuss which family members had fought in the war and why this memorial is so special for them.
“Granite, bronze, and water elements harmoniously blend with the lawns, trees, and shrubbery of the surrounding landscape” (http://www.wwiimemorial.com/).The memorial columns that surround the water pond of this memorial are shown in order of admission of each state. The two ends represent the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and there is a column for each state between them. Some people and especially kids were looking up for their state names on the columns. The field of stars represents the number of soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the war and it is a great visualization for teenagers who have studied the war in their history classes. Seeing veterans and their family members searching for names on the wall was very touching. Older kids were talking to one another about their grandparents and it is good that parents brought them to the memorial. It is a great way to introduce the history to children and teach them to respect our heritage. It was especially interesting to see the grandparents sharing their memories about the war with their grandchildren. There are only a few thousand veterans of this war who are still alive and can share their memories about those days. There are quotes about World War II engraved on the wall. One quote paid honor to the women who served. It was very touching to read it.
The most beautiful view of this memorial can be seen at the sunset or at night, when there is a glow around the fountains, bronze and stone work. The fountains create unique atmosphere of this place and its picturesque location attracts visitors and tourists. Some people sit on the steps by the fountains, listening to the sounds of water and watching it coming alive. In such moments plenty of thoughts about life and death, destiny, courage and fear come into one’s mind. Some people were sad because they had lost their relatives in this war and the place reminded them of this loss. Some veterans have come with the Honor Flight group from the different US states in order to see the monument. Visitors, total strangers, shook hands of the veterans and said words of thanks to them. It was truly an unforgettable emotional experience for all. Veterans who are now in their 80s and 90s, said they felt lucky to visit a place that honors “a war the whole country fought”. Most of the people that they served with during the war have passed away long ago, but this memorial brought back good memories of those people. It is a chance for the veterans to feel joy of being alive and sadness of a huge loss of their friends or relatives.
On the other hand, there were tourists captivated by the beauty of the surroundings and the fountains that used this place as a photo background. Probably they overlooked the significance of the monument or it did not mean much for them personally. Many people were smiling and posing for photos, apparently the memorial did not illicit any emotional response from them. Unlike Vietnam and Korea memorials, which represent the pain of loss, this one rather glorifies the power of the US nation. People who served in the World War II perceived their feat as the only right way to live and an honorable way to die. “Fifty-six granite columns, split between two half-circles framing the rebuilt Rainbow Pool with its celebratory fountains, symbolize the unprecedented wartime unity among the forty-eight states, seven federal territories, and the District of Columbia. Bronze ropes tie the columns together, while bronze oak and wheat wreathes respectively represent the nation’s industrial and agricultural strengths”.
A monument dedicated to the veterans of World War I is located in a peaceful place away from the crowds. It has a simple architecture: a small, modest, yet elegant circular domed marble memorial. It was built in 1931 and commemorates the 26,000 people from the Washington D.C. that served in the World War I. Unlike the World War II Memorial it is dedicated to the local people only, however it was recently renovated and is worth visiting. It had crumbled into disrepair and was hidden behind the trees for many years. “It was a forgotten memorial to a forgotten war.”. Now it finally looks bright and the landscape does not hide it anymore. It is a place when one may feel sadness and loneliness.
There are no displays, no striking sculptures, but the meaning of the memorial should not be underestimated. Currently it is the only place dedicated to the World War I in the Washington D.C., but it could be a part of larger memorial complex in the future. The fact that D.C. citizens raised the money on their own to build this monument makes it special and shows how precious and sacred memories of the national heroes could be. At a glance this place may seem forgotten as it is not visited by plenty of tourists each day. However, once people who had relatives served in the World War I, see it, they will never forget it.
The World War I Memorial is a perfect place for those who want to sit quietly and to think about all the people who fought and died so that others could live, and also about people who helped to build our country. Some Washington D.C. citizens find this place romantic, call it “a beautiful gem” and even make proposals to their beloved ones there.
A sense of quiet and reverence is present at both of the war memorials, especially in fall and winter. These memorials have great meaning for the people whose relatives took part in any war. They are also a reminder for visitors of all ages of American nation’s human sacrifice in two world wars. People who lost their relatives can fully appreciate the significance of the memorials while for others it is a way to honor our history and show gratitude to the veterans. Such places are definitely worth visiting as they remind us to appreciate our lives and peaceful times we live in. We should never forget and do everything we can to preserve peace and freedom of our country.