Sunday was Veterans Day and the weather turned out to be rather nice. For me the afternoon started with a walk north towards the Lloyd Center and quickly changed to a trip out to Washington Park to visit the Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial. It was just a beautiful day and I wanted to be out.
I have a weird relationship with Veterans Day. I am not a vet, never served in the military. My dad was in Vietnam but he never talked about it and I never asked. Through a weird series of events many years ago my dad and I had off and our respective wives were working. The two of us having nothing better to do we went to DC. First stop was the Vietnam Memorial and then we went to the American History Museum.
It was such a great day just hanging out with my dad. He passed away many years ago but I have never forgotten that trip to the city. I wanted to visit the memorial to remember my father. I miss him every day.
What should have been a straight shot train ride got derailed by an accident along the tracks. I just walked past the closed stop and onto the next one. Remember its a beautiful day and I love to walk. Eventually I made it to the park. The memorial is right there when you get off the train and if my understanding is correct this is also the bottom of Forrest Park.
Anyone can put a stone statue some place and call it a memorial. This one was much more than that. It was started by locals wanting to honor those that didn’t make it back from Vietnam. With years of fundraising the organization had the money they needed to start construction.
You walk down this path that leads to a fountain and small plague. Next the path spirals up the hillside. Along the path there are giant marble walls with all the names of the dead and the year they died. When you get to the end you see a list of MIA. Thankfully you can see that some of those names have been taken off. They didn’t make it back alive but they made it home.
I got to the top of the path and just had to take a seat for a while. All these emotions running through me. The lives lost to war, needless war. The lives of all those soldiers still fighting, doing what they think is best to protect America and our allies. And my dad. Greatest man I ever knew. I wouldn’t be who I am today without him and for that I am eternally grateful. I found some peace that afternoon.
Memorials are there for a reason and I was glad I got to the Vietnam Memorial. The weather was good, it was a holiday, and it was a Sunday. Just being there, sitting, thinking, and looking at everything around me. It was a great day. Let us never forget.
All week I had been sick and taken most of that time off from work. I know my body pretty well and when I am not feeling good I just need to sleep and rest to recovery the quickest. Thankfully I already took Friday, Veterans Day, off a few week prior because I worked a full Saturday. I was thankfully for the time off and decided to head to Grate Falls for a quick hike. Its not far from my house and had been seven years since my last visit. I was only starting to get my energy back so a simple hike like Great Falls was certainly in order.
The park was full because of the holiday and the fee free entrance again. I just seem to pick them or they really do have them a lot, haven’t figured out which is happening. The last time I was here I remember coming into the park and heading down along the river so this time I headed up the river towards the small damn they have.
All along the trail I ran into people out enjoying the weather. To be honest it was another perfect crisp fall day with only a few clouds in the air. I managed to find a nice spot along the river to relax for a while. i was trying to make it out as far as I could but the river was a little high from recent rain. I also spent a lot of time right up at the falls just hanging out. Even managed to catch a leaf in mid flight that had blown over the water. All you could hear was the water flowing over the damn and down the river.
Not a very long hike but a great day to be outside enjoying fall. Even though I was sick i still managed to make it out for a while to enjoy some peace and quite.
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.