For most federal holiday they happen on Monday or Friday and often the government shifts around the day off to fit this ideal model. So having Veterans Day in the middle of the week just felt odd and out of place. On top of that Hurricane Ida hit the Gulf Coast and decided to sit on top of Virginia ALL day. I was planning on getting outside to do a little hiking but that got washed out, literally. So when my dad called saying he was going to DC to visit the Vietnam Memorial, possible Arlington National Cemetery, and the Smithsonian’s American History Museum I decided that was a better day spent than inside my house.
We got some what of an early start, I went to his house around 10am so we could take Metro into the city. I was not overly concerned with high traffic today, middle of the week and rain would keep most people away. Plus the more people I talked to it was about a 50/50 split on who had off. Needless to say there was plenty of parking in the garage and seats on the train.
When we got to the Smithsonian stop and took the long escalator ride up we got our first taste of just how miserable the weather was going to be. I was hoping that the further north we traveled things would improve, but of course that was wishful thinking. The wind would howl blowing cold moisture soaked air, layers of warm cloths were the only defense against this onslaught of mother nature. A good rain jacket or umbrella was a must too. My dad’s umbrella decided to break down and provide only minimal defense against the rain, but for today it would do the job well enough. The rain falling was never heavy, just a steady, even, rainfall. Enough to make it not fun to be outside.
The walk from the Metro stop to the Vietnam Memorial is about a mile and half, not that far, but no fun in the rain. We made the most of it and I was able to get a couple nice shots considering the day. We passed the Washington Monument and the WWII Memorial before we reach our destination. Around the memorial were a ton of veterans mingling and reminiscing about days of old. The cold and rain were not enough to keep these guys from honoring the memories of their fallen brothers. It was inspiring really, I imagine many of them dealt with much worse in the jungle to let a little rain bother them today. We tried to get close and walk along the wall but police had it blocked off to the public. An officer said they were preparing for a ceremony at 1pm and we should come back around 3pm if we wanted to get closer.
We spent a good amount of time standing around looking at the wall talking about Vietnam and the current war. The conversation around the memorial was definitely different than the one on the train ride up or the walk over. My dad was in country for 17 months as a MP at a southern airfield. He has never talked about it and I never bring it up. But I know it affected him. We talked a little about what the American public was like back then and again now. To me it is eerily similar now as it was back then. The public is loosing patience with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, just like in the late sixties with Vietnam. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years. Will history repeat itself?
With our sole searching done we trudged along towards the American History Museum. They recently remolded the museum and opened it back up to the public, plus we wanted to get out of the rain. Walking along Constitution Avenue we quickly noticed that the roads were blocked off, not even pedestrians were allowed to cross the road. We knew it was for someone important, and we assumed the President. A few minutes later we see police motorcycles drive by followed by three heavily armored limousine and 10 or so black SUV’s. The motorcade even had an ambulance thrown in for good measure. One of the SUV’s looked like it could have communicated with Spirit and Opportunity on Mars. That’s just the way he rolls.
Getting to the museum we made a quick stop at the cafe on the first floor for some lunch and much needed hot coffee. It felt good to be inside and out of the rain. Next we got a map of the museum and started exploring. The guide we talked to recommended the Star-Spangled Banner, Julia Child’s Kitchen, and American Presidency. But before we saw any of these we started with America on the Move since it is on the first floor. My dad loves trains so it was an obvious first choice. It is pretty amazing to see how far we have come in this country. But when you considering how massive it is, it’s no wonder we love to travel.
Next it was up to the third floor and work our way down. The big attraction here is the Price of Freedom display which shows every war America has been in. From our countries the little known wars in our early history all the way up to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we are bravely fighting. We took our time especially walking through the Vietnam section. I am pretty sure it brought bake memories for my dad. He pointed out on a giant map the place he was stationed in country which was pretty neat.
On the second floor is the Star-Spangled Banner, this is the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write what eventually became the national anthem of our country. When I was a kid the flag use to be displayed so when you walked in from the Mall entrance it was the first thing you saw. As time went on they covered it and would only display it for a brief time during the day. Now, it is entirely encased in a environmentally controlled chamber away from people and light. Throughout the flags history people have not taken the best care of it. Large sections were cut out and sold and at one time it was displayed outside on the museum wall.
We had time to check a few other section of the museum in our limited time. Of course we couldn’t see everything in the few hours we had, but we saw everything we wanted to. It was great spending the day with my dad in the city. It reminded me of my youth when he would take my brother and I up regularly to check out the museums. Even in my thirties going to the museums with my dad is a lot of fun.