Postcard from home (Washington, D.C.)

Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Today is Flag Day, the 236th Birthday of the U.S. Army and last but not least, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s (Think Uncle Tom’s Cabin.) 200th birthday.

2011 also marks the 10th anniversary of 9-11 and the war in Afghanistan, the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War and the 70th anniversary America’s entry into World War II. But enough with the history lesson.

It’s the perfect time to be here in D.C., surrounded by so many monuments to our nation’s past. Even the miserable summer humidity seems to have broken. For a few days at least.

(Side note to George Washington, Andrew Ellicott and anyone else involved with the founding of D.C.: Why did you think it was a good idea to build in a swamp? Why?)

I’m the first to admit that I complain about the tourists and I don’t take advantage of all of the memorials and museums here in Washington. With each year, it seems harder and harder to remember the sense of power, the awe that the city inspired in me when I was a teenager. When it’s something you can access any time you want, it just doesn’t seem special any more.

But memorials are special. They really are. They’re symbols of the amazing accomplishments of great Americans, of men and women who sacrificed their blood, sweat and tears so I would have the freedom to write this blog. I’ve been to most of them, from the Lincoln Memorial to the FDR Memorial, but the most poignant, the most striking are the ones dedicated to wars and the military.

The naked emotion on the faces of the GIs at the Korean War Veterans Memorial, for example, is chilling. They’re on a combat patrol somewhere in Korea and they look tough and hardened and terrified. Somehow, some of them have eyes that are completely blank, as though they’ve already seen too much. One or two look back, as though they’ve heard a noise. Korea may be the forgotten war, but the memorial is a tangible, heartbreaking reminder of the pain and heartache of combat.

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And then there’s the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Wall, with its endless list of names, is striking and sobering all by itself, but when you add in all of the veterans and family members to go there to grieve, it’s pretty hard to take. It’s heartbreaking, actually.

It’s also what America is all about—duty, honor, sacrifice, patriotism—and it’s right in my backyard.

I’m a lucky girl.

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