Honoring Service to Country With a Veterans Day in D.C.
I remember the first time I went to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It was a hot summer day and I was 8 or 9 years old, visiting Washington, D.C., with my parents and sister. My mom wanted to see The Wall, to find the names of friends she had lost in the Vietnam War.
I watched as she took out a piece of paper and created a rubbing of the etched names with the edge of a pencil. Years later, I would buy her a framed print of “Reflections,” a painting of a man touching The Wall with one hand, connecting to the soldiers reflected back at him.
We are fortunate that Frederick is so close to so many beautiful memorials, monuments and museums that pay tribute to the veterans who served, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. “We have the unique opportunity to be where history is happening,” says Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC. “Here, you can stand side-by-side with veterans who’ve served in recent wars and pay tribute with them.”
Veterans and active military members are honored on Veterans Day and there are several ways that you can pay your own personal tribute this Nov. 11—and throughout the year–in the Washington, D.C., area.
Attend a Wreath-Laying Ceremony
Join veterans from World War II to present-day conflicts for a wreath-laying ceremony in honor of their service. All ceremonies are free and open to the public, but some request an RSVP (see sidebar). If you time it right, you can attend more than one ceremony.
While the ceremonies held at individual memorials focus on veterans of their respective wars, the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery honors all who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, no matter the war or military branch.
Pay Tribute at a Memorial
Combine a wreath-laying ceremony with a visit to nearby memorials. Of the many memorials in Washington, D.C., among the most iconic and significant to veterans are the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, more commonly known as the Iwo Jima Memorial.
Another memorial not to miss is the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. Located next
to the U.S. Botanic Garden, this newer memorial pays tribute to those who returned from their tour of duty with a permanent disability. The centerpiece of this memorial is a star-shaped fountain with a ceremonial flame. It’s a place of quiet reflection and remembrance.
Explore Military Exhibits
Mark the day by immersing yourself in an exhibit that explores military history. “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War,” an exhibit at the National Museum of American History, explores how wars have shaped the country. The exhibit features artifacts, first-person accounts and interactive experiences.
At the National Air and Space Museum, you can explore the history of military aviation during the first and second World Wars. There are even more wartime planes on display at the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.
Next, dive into the Public Vaults at the National Archives. “Provide for the Common Defense” features historical records through the Persian Gulf War that highlight the sacrifice and heroism of those who served.
Also be sure to visit the National Museum of Jewish Military History, too. On Veterans Day, you can create packages and messages to support veterans.
Enjoy Free Admission for Service Members
Active and retired service members can tour The Newseum for free on Veterans Day. Notable exhibits include the Journalists Memorial and the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery, including the iconic image of the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima.
Admission is also free for military personnel at Mount Vernon, the home of the country’s first commander-in-chief. Attend a wreath-laying ceremony at noon, place a rose on Washington’s tomb, listen to patriotic music and tour the mansion.
Attend a Free Concert
End the day with music. Millennium Stage at The Kennedy Center hosts a free performance every evening at 6 p.m. On Veterans Day, The Army Chorus will perform.
At the Washington National Cathedral, the U.S. Marine Orchestra will accompany the National Cathedral Choir at 7 p.m. Registration is required for this Veterans Day concert but not for the concert on Millennium Stage.
However you choose to say thank you this Veterans Day, whether it be at a museum or at a memorial, you’ll find a unique opportunity to do so in Washington, D.C.
Shannon Morgan is the author of 100 Things to Do in Washington DC Before You Die and the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran. You can find her on social media at @sldmorgan.