HomeopinionThe varied reactions to DC memorials

The varied reactions to DC memorials

The Korean War Memorial, while eerie, is still very important to our nation’s history. During my trip to the capital, I was surprised at the disinterest in this particular tribute and the few visitors that lingered at this spot.

Our nation’s capital is home to several war and presidential memorials, all of which are beautifully designed and appropriately reflect our patriotic appreciation of the sacrifices that our predecessors made. Most of these memorials are found on the National Mall, at the end of which sits the Lincoln Memorial.

On a walk down the Mall, the first memorial is for World War II. Fountains and a large pool stand in the center of the display, and the courtyard is surrounded by wreathed columns recognizing each of the 50 states. Though a memorial for a devastating and far-reaching war, the monument has a Vegas-y feel. Students on field trips take group pictures with smiles on their faces as adults talk loudly on their cell phones.

Other memorials are appropriately somber and very humbling. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, designed by Yale University undergraduate Maya Lin in 1981, is made up of two slabs of polished black marble, the ends of which point to the opposite ends of the National Mall: the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Names of the deceased are inscribed chronologically along the wall, simple chains separate a small path along the marble from shallow flower gardens. One of the more quiet sights to behold in the capital, this memorial is simultaneously eerie and respectful.

Out of thick green bushes emerge stone castings of US soldiers, above whom American flags flap in the breeze. This is the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Though more than five million Americans served in this war, it is little known among non-veterans today, explaining the lack of visitors to the monument.

Finally, at the end of the Mall sits the marble giant, Abraham Lincoln, in all of his glory. This monument is the final stop on a school field trip and best seen at night. Much like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lincoln’s is very simple and powerful.

What is it about each of these equally important memorials that generates such different reactions from their visitors? It is inexplicable that bored children use the smooth marble railings on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as a slide. My first reaction to their behavior was absolute scorn, and yet I wondered – is the right to make anything slippery into a slide, the right to be silly in public, not what Lincoln would have wanted?

Sure, maybe I wish that people would stop texting at the Korean War Memorial, or stop making peace signs and pouty faces in front of marble Lincoln – but these are the freedoms that veterans and presidents were fighting for. In this backwards way, we honor their memory.

Virginia Reed, Online Editor
Virginia Reed, Online Editor
Virginia Reed is a superb writer and an even better friend. She enjoys unhealthy foods and writing sarcastic articles. Virginia is the Online Editor for the 2011-12 school year and was a Managing Editor for the 2010-11 year but has not forgotten her humble beginnings as a staff writer when she was a wee sophomore. Her goals for the future are to get an A in newspaper and to apply to college in a timely fashion.
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1 COMMENT

  1. Wonderful. Having not been to these memorials (shame on me!) I enjoyed the “tour” very much. I really like how you offered a positive spin on people’s behaviors. We truly are a free nation.

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