Touring the Memorial Parks

Well, it's taken me a year to get back on the blogging bandwagon, but here we go...

A real treat for Cheapos and Snobs alike is our nation’s capital, Washington D. C. Laid out in a grid pattern by French architect Pierre L’Enfant, the city is easy to get around. Of course, it’s full of history, beautiful buildings, and monuments to keep the Snob happily engaged. And, besides that, everything is free—to the tremendous delight of any Cheapo! Our first destination on a visit last week was to see the shrines to the military and famous Americans located near the Lincoln Memorial.

To my mind, the list of soldiers killed in Vietnam and the statues representing the conflict in Korea were as much anti-war monuments as testaments to the soldiers’ courage. Who can walk by over 58,000 names and not realize what a tragedy the Vietnam War was? It was very touching to hear the young boy explain to his baby brother that all of those people had died. The Korean Memorial was especially moving. The nineteen stainless steel sculptures, wearing ponchos over their weapons and equipment, come from all branches of the armed forces and all ethnic groups. One of the seven-foot tall men looks out into the face of visitors and seems to gesture for us to stay back. The overall impression is of ghosts wading through the rice paddies; haunting is the word that kept coming to me.

Just across the street in West Potomac Park you come to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. As luck would have it, a park ranger was about to begin a tour and asked us to join. We love learning about places this way and the fact that we were the only visitors in the group made it even more attractive! The guide explained to us that you enter through two large pieces of granite out of which a big block with King’s image on it has been extracted. The Chinese artist wanted to illustrate a line from the “I Have a Dream” speech: “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope,” which is carved on the side of centerpiece. All around you find other inspiring quotes from King. One can only imagine how lovely the monument will be in a few weeks when the cherry trees are in bloom.

Our last stop on the cold, windy afternoon was the FDR Memorial. Four open-air rooms stand for the four terms of office of our thirty-second president. Waterfalls and pools of water provide the background as you wind your way through the seven-acre area. Visitors can read Franklin Roosevelt’s words while admiring the long list programs he set up during the Great Depression and World War II.The quotes were probably my favorite part of this memorial along with a bronze sculpture of five men in a bread line; otherwise, the monument was rather lackluster.

We learned so much in Washington and I promise not to wait another year before filling you in on the rest.

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