Last Sunday, since Scott was still with us for a day, we headed for the Capital Mall to see all of the memorials. The day was brilliantly sunny and as warm as summer. Again, we couldn’t have asked for anything more. Few crowds, few cars (it being a Sunday), and ample time to wander among the memorials and admire the people for whom they were erected. (See the accompanying Gallery entry for photos of the day.)
We started out by driving up Constitution St. and then down Independence St., giving all of us a chance to oooh and awwww from the car. Then we parked right off of Constitution St. and headed on foot to the mall. My first choice was the Lincoln Memorial (he’s my favorite person ever), so we headed west on the mall once we hit the sidewalks.
Before we got to the Lincoln Memorial, though, we passed by the Vietnam War Memorial, where we had to stop. First, we were held captive by the statue to the east of the wall of the memorial, commemorating the nurses who were active in the war. Powerful.
Then we continued on to the wall, a deceptively simple memorial that grabs you by the heart once you stand before it and contemplate what the names on the walls mean.
I had read about the memorial, both good and bad. My impression: gripping. And the fact that there is still room on the memorial to add names brings this even closer to the heart. There are still men who are paying the price for their service in Vietnam. Beyond the wall there is another statue, commemorating the men who served. Again, powerful.
After the Vietnam Memorial, it was on to the Lincoln Memorial.
Abraham Lincoln is seated in the Temple of Wisdom. That’s my immediate, and approving, impression. Seated on a chair, gazing out across the Capitol Mall, facing the U.S. Capitol Building. He fought to preserve these states, so it’s fitting that he continues to watch out over the government of this United States of America.
I have wanted to visit this memorial for as long as I have memory. Of all the people I have read about in my life, Abraham Lincoln is the epitome of greatness. His wisdom, intelligence, humility, and faith are what attract me to him. And all of these were on display on the wall to his left where “he” is seated, in the quotation from his Second Inaugural Address.
Reading it again, I cried. His insight into the meaning of the war, and the payback being made for a nation that had accepted and encouraged slavery, simply resounds with me. He understood the suffering and tried to find a reason for it, and a way to live with the consequences.
“Fondly do we hope–fervently do we pray–that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan–to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
What a mind, what a soul.
After Lincoln, we visited the Korean War Memorial, a long-overdue acknowledgement of the sacrifice of so many men and women, American and Korean, as well as men and women from numerous UN nations.
The memorial features a platoon of 19 soldiers wearing packs and rain ponchos, looking ahead, walking through a field of low-lying juniper bushes, which are meant to resemble the terrain of Korea.
Alongside the soldiers is a black granite wall, with a mural of 2,400 images etched into the stone. This is stunning, as though the spirits of the people have been entombed and are now looking back at us, asking us not to forget them. It isn’t spooky so much as commanding. Never forget us.
At the end of the memorial is a reflecting pool, around the sides of which are blood-curdling statistics about the numbers of dead, injured, missing, and captured during the Korean “Conflict.”
Twenty-two nations responded to the call to fight against the agression of communism. So many lives lost, and so many lives affected. But, as it says on the stone wall behind the reflecting pool, “FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.”