Family historians practice the concept of remembrance whenever they tell the story of an ancestor’s life. While we research our veteran ancestors year-round, on Memorial Day we also recognize the cemeteries where they rest and the memorials created to their service. On previous occasions, I’ve written about:
Visiting the American Cemetery at Normandy (Normandy, France)
Honoring Civil War Veterans at The Ridges (Athens, Ohio)
On this Memorial Day, I’d like to recognize our country’s striking memorial to the American servicemen and women of World War II. The National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. is a beautiful and stirring tribute to those who fought to defend democracy in a terrible war waged on two fronts.
Dioramas leading into the center of the memorial illustrate some of the soldiers’ experiences, starting with enlistment and saying good-bye to loved ones. This diorama depicts the landings on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, May 6, 1944.
One side of the circular memorial is dedicated to the Atlantic theatre of operations, and the other side to the Pacific. The names of battle sites and operations for each theatre are engraved around low fountains. A colonnade of wreath-adorned pillars—one for each state—rings the perimeter.
Engravings recall memorable quotes by presidents and generals. Some were originally meant to encourage men in the thick of battle, while others, like this one by General Douglas MacArthur, commemorate peace.
The Washington Monument provides a fitting backdrop for the World War II Memorial. Across the wide expanse of the Reflecting Pool, the Lincoln Memorial stands in silent tribute to the sacrifices of another terrible conflict, the Civil War.
I’ll leave you with this quote from President Harry S. Truman, which summarizes perfectly what we pause to remember every Memorial Day: “Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.”