Monuments to America's Veterans
A Small Sample of America's Monuments to Veterans
Throughout history people have memorialized those who have given of their time, and often their lives, to protect their fellow countrymen.
Americans are no exception and scattered throughout the nation are numerous monuments honoring the sacrifices of those who have served in our nation's defense.
While we have our share of monuments to famous military heroes and victories in battle, an overwhelming number of monuments simply honor those who fought. Some are individualized with the names of those from the community or nation who made the ultimate sacrifice of their life in the defense of the nation while others simply honor the multitude of nameless men and women who answered the call of duty and served.
As we observe Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Armed Forces Day these monuments serve as a visible reminder of what we are commemorating on these holidays.
Below are pictures and accounts of a few of the monuments I have visited in my travels.
Simple Cross Honoring Colonial Soldiers Killed on Frontier
Sitting on a bluff overlooking the San Pedro River in Southern Arizona are the remains of an old Spanish fort known as Real Presidio de Santa Cruz de Terrenate (Royal Fort of the Holy Cross of Terrenate). Next to the remains is a simple cross honoring three officers and 95 enlisted men killed in combat defending the fort and surrounding area during the years 1776 to 1780 when the fort was in operation.
The soldiers and officers were in the Spanish Colonial Army, however, all of them were more than likely born in and spent their lives in the area that is now Arizona. They died defending the settlers and local Indians from Apaches who were relatively new to the area having migrated south from the northern plains and Canada shortly before the arrival of the Spanish.
This monument, honoring soldiers of the past, was erected by warrant officers from the nearby contemporary U.S. Army Fort Huachuca.
Simple Cross Honoring Colonial Soldiers Killed in Action on Frontier
Philadelphia Monument to 2,000 Unknown Soldiers of American Revolution
The winter of 1776-77 found George Washington and the Continental Army hungry and shivering in Philadelphia.
The enemy that winter was disease rather than the British. Death was common and caskets of dozens of soldiers were interred daily in hastily dug mass graves in a cemetery within walking distance of Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence had been signed a few months earlier.
Statute of George Washington at Monument to Unknown Revolutionary War Soldiers
Previously this had been a burial ground for the city's African American slaves but the Army's circumstances resulted in it quickly becoming the final resting place for soldiers. With time and resources limited, the army resorted to burying each day's dead in one large grave without any record of the names of those in the grave. New mass graves were dug every day.
After the Continental Army was forced to retreat from the city later in the year, the occupying British continued to be fill graves with the bodies of unnamed American soldiers, only this time the soldiers were captives languishing and dying in British captivity.
At the time of the American Revolution Washington Square was just a square piece of land in the city that was used for burials. Its use as a cemetery ended in 1793 during the city's Yellow Fever epidemic when residents in surrounding areas feared that supposed vapors being emitted from the graves of the Yellow Fever victims buried there would infect them with the disease.
The name "Washington Square" was not attached to this plot of land until 1824 when the city decided to give the name "Washington Square" to this square along with names of three other Revolutionary notables to the three other officially unnamed squares (they had originally been created by William Penn, the city's founder, as open space areas within the city) as a result of the patriotic fervor that swept the city (and country) following General Lafayette's 1824 visit to the United States.
The present monument to the unknown Revolutionary War soldiers was erected in 1957.
Philadelphia Monument to Unknown Revolutionary War Soldiers
A Monument to U.S. Navy Sailors Living and Dead
Norfolk, Virginia is home to Naval Station, Norfolk, the world's largest naval station.
Stretching along the city's waterfront next to downtown is a beautiful park. The retired battleship Wisconsin, now a museum, is docked here. The waterfront park reflects the city's past and present close relationship with the sea and shipping.
Among the sights is a sculpture of a lone sailor facing the sea with a duffel bag at his side packed and ready to ship out.
A nearby stone marker identifies the sculpture as "... an exact replica of the famous Lone Sailor Statue created by sculptor Stanley Bleifeld to grace the United States Navy Memorial in Washington D.C." It goes on to state that the sailor symbolizes everyone who "has served, is serving now, and who is yet to serve in the United States Navy".
Another reminder that Veterans Day honors all who have served in our nation's armed forces - past, present, and future.
Norfolk VA Monument to All Navy Sailors
Korean Conflict - The "Forgotten War"
As World War II drew to a close the unstable alliance of Western countries with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany began to break up. The alliance with the Soviet Union had always been more a matter of military necessity with the only common bond between the democratic Western nations and the Soviet communist state. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was especially leary of the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and his ambitions.
As the Western Allies advanced eastward liberating Wesern Europe from Nazi rule, Soviet forces advanced westward liberating Eastern Europe from Nazi rule. However, elimination of Nazi rule by Soviet forces turned out to be removal of the Nazi yoke and imposition of a Communist yoke and rule by the Soviet Union.
A couple of months after World War II ended in Europe on May 8, 1945 an election was held in Britain and Churchill's Conservative Party was voted out of power. After nine months as a private citizen, Winston Churchill visited the United States and was invited to give a speech on March 5, 1946 at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. In that speech Churchill uttered the now famous line, From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.
While the tense wartime relations between the Soviet Union and the West had continued to rise steadily since the end of World War II, Churchill in this speech put into words a truth that others had feared to utter. Churchill's 1946 Sinews of Peace speech at Westminster College marked the beginning of what came to be known as the Cold War a four decade period in history in which the world was divided into two armed camps on the brink of war with each side hesitating to fire the first shot for fear of nuclear annihilation.
However, small proxy wars did break out with one of the first being the June 25, 1950 invasion of democratic South Korea which was under the protection of the Western Allies from World War II by the Soviet Union's communist puppet state of North Korea.
The United States moved to defend South Korea but, President Truman, fearing the possibility of a nuclear World War III, used his power as Commander-in-Chief to order American troops, and our allies, to defend South Korea and push the invaders back to the 38th parallel dividing the two Korea's.
Memorial to Korean War - The "Forgotten War" - Memorial
Washington DC World War II Memorial
The picture below shows part of the World War II Pacific Theater of War half of the World War II Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C.
World War II was a global war in which millions of American men and women served. These men and women fought against tyranny in Europe, the islands in the South Pacific, in Africa and Asia. American casualties in this war were second only to those in the Civil War.
This large monument with its granite markers, fountains and reflecting pools honors the sacrifices of the millions of men and women who to protect and defend freedom for Americans and others threatened by the tyrannical regimes of the mid-Twentieth Century.
WW II Monument to Those Who Served in Pacific Theater
Pentagon's Memorial to Those Killed in the 911 Terrorist Attack
As millions Americans and others around the world were beginning to learn of the terrorist attack involving two commercial airliners being hijacked deliberately flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, other terrorists were already aboard American Airlines Flight 77 taking off from Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.
This plane was hijacked by the terrorists immediately after take off. With its fuel tanks topped off with 10,000 gallons of highly flammable jet fuel to power it on its planned flight to Los Angeles it quickly became a flying bomb in the hands of the terrorists.
Once in control, the terrorists turned the plane toward the nearby Pentagon, headquarters of the United States Defense establishment, and crashed it into the West wall of the Pentagon killing all 64 people aboard along with an additional 125 military and civilian Pentagon employees working in the west wing of the Pentagon.
The youngest victim of this vicious act of terror was 3 year old Dana Falkenberg who was traveling on Flight 77 with her parents and 8 year old sister Zoe.
Located on the west side of the Pentagon, the site of the planes impact, the memorial includes 184 curved benches each with a small pool of water beneath it. There is one bench for each of the victims of the attack. Each bench has the name of the individual victim it is honoring.
The curved end of the benches honoring the employees killed while working inside the Pentagon face toward the wall of the building with plate with he individual containing the name of the employee is located at the opposite end of the bench. The benches for the victims traveling on the plane are reversed. In this way when reading the name of an employee killed the viewer will be facing toward the building while viewing the name of a passenger victim the viewer will be facing the direction from which the plane was flying.
Unlike many of the other monuments in Washington that commemorate people and events that took place far away, the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial sits on the very ground where 184 Americans died in a cruel act of terror. This is sacred ground and the monument reflects this.
Memorial to Those Killed in September 11th Attack on the Pentagon
Tomb of Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. contains the graves of thousands of America's war dead.
Following World War I the United States followed the example of other nations like Britain and France in in selecting from among the many killed in combat whose remains could not be identified. It hard enough for relatives and friends of fallen warriors to deal with their death, but it is even more difficult to deal with the fact that the whereabouts of their fallen warrior is unknown.
In an attempt to give the loved ones of these warriors some closure the nation randomly selected one of the unknowns and placed the remains in a tomb in Arlington Cemetery where that particular soldier represented all of those who died unknown.
A soldier stands guard over the tomb 24 hours a day, seven days a week year round. Every hour the guard is changed in a ceremony that is continually repeated. Following the formal change of the guard, the one who has completed his tour returns to the barracks and his replacement spends the next hour solemnly marching back and forth in front of the tomb.
In 1958 the remains of an unknown from World War II and one from the Korean Conflict were selected and re interred at the monument with the soldier from World War I.
In 1984 the remains of an unknown soldier from the Vietnam War were interred with those from the earlier wars of the 20th Century in a solemn ceremony overseen by President Ronald Reagan.
However, advances in DNA analysis enabled Department of Defense scientists in 1998 to identify the Unknown Soldier from the Vietnam War as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie whose plane was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam in 1972. Lt. Blassie's remains were removed from the tomb and re interred in a grave with his own name, giving his family closure.
The crypt at the tomb where Lt. Blassie lay with the Unknowns of previous wars left empty with but with a new marble cover on which was inscribed “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”
Honor Guard at Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
© 2017 Chuck Nugent