On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the armistice ending World War I began. Since then November 11th has been celebrated as a day to honor the sacrifice of American war veterans. First known as Armistice Day, it was solely dedicated to those who fought in World War I. In 1954, Congress changed it to recognize all American war veterans, reaching a total of 23.2 million today. In Washington, D.C., there are many national memorials to visit on Veterans Day to reflect on and honor the hard work of those who have fought for our country. These are just a few:
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
In the Vietnam War, nearly 2/3 of the servicemen were volunteers. There are still 55 American servicemen from this war deemed MIA. This memorial was built without any government funds and you can find offerings left at the memorial nearly every day.
Vietnam Women’s Memorial
During the Vietnam War, 265,000 women volunteered to help, 90% serving as nurses. 11,000 of them were stationed in Vietnam. This was the first memorial dedicated to women’s war efforts and at its opening there was a three day celebration during which the memorial was unveiled.
Korean War Veterans Memorial
The Korean War involved nearly 6 million U.S. soldiers. The bushes around the statues in the memorial are meant to create the terrain of Korea. The reflections of the 19 soldiers in the black wall running alongside the memorial creates a total of 38 soldiers, representing the importance of the 38th parallel in this war.
National World War II Memorial
433 Medals of Honor were awarded during World War II. Each Gold Star at this memorial represents 100 American servicemen who are missing or were killed during WWII. You can find two “Kilroy was here” graffiti pieces around the memorial. This cartoon graffiti was known to all veterans of WWII.
Marine Corps War Memorial
On February 19, 1945, 70,000 marines invaded the island of Iwo Jima. This memorial was based on a Pulitzer Prize winning photo taken on the day the American flag was raised on the island. Each soldier is 32 feet tall, and the canteen carried in the statue would hold 8 gallons of water.
Arlington National Cemetery
Buried in this cemetery are soldiers from every American conflict beginning with the Civil War. At 11 a.m. on Nov. 11th, at the Tomb of the Unknowns, a color guard from every military branch honors the soldiers buried here, particularly soldiers who died in war and were never identified. A wreath is also placed at the tomb by the President of the United States or a representative while a bugler sounds taps.