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  • Mikah Meyer

Memorials and More

Units #4, #5, & #6 / 412 - (National) World War II Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Having lived in Washington D.C. for the past 4 years, I admit I didn't always use the Memorials for their intended purpose.

More often the finale to a good date, their moonlit facades were only made better by the complete lack of tourists at the hour.

But that's one of the great parts of our national parks. They aren't just for one purpose.

When I stand at the footstep of the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and gaze across the tidal basin at the Jefferson Memorial, I follow Martin's eyes and wonder what he'd think about staring at a slave owner. And even as these Memorials cause us to confront the uglier parts of our country's past, when I view the MLK Memorial from the Jefferson, it's a reminder of how far our country has come. That the promise-- written by Jefferson himself--that "all men are created equal," no matter how slow to come to fruition, is my nation's constant goal.

Or as Martin said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Whether the quotes on the wall of the MLK Memorial, the pristinely beautiful layout of the handicap-friendly Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, or the somber reminder of lives lost to conflict at the World War II Memorial, the memorials on the National Mall provide the chance to reflect on what has made us the nation we are today.

"Freedom Wall holds 4,048 gold stars. Each gold star represents one hundred American service personnel who died or remain missing in the war. The 405,399 American dead and missing from World War II are second only to the loss of more than 620,000 Americans during our Civil War."

Why did we choose to honor these individuals? As the quotes on the MLK and FDR Memorials will remind, in some cases it's because their impact toward our national identity was so great that we should be aware of it. In other cases, it's a reminder of the people who gave their lives so that national identity could live on.

And the beauty of their layout is such that these memorials go beyond that.

They can be:

A place for a picnic as you reflect on America's past.

A peaceful lunchtime walk for one of the 1,000's of federal employees working in departments with views of these historic landmarks.

Or even the end to a great date.

So whether you're a traveler from afar, or a DC-resident who has yet to take advantage of "those memorials I keep waiting for a visitor to see with," make sure you take the time to wander these stonecast reminders of what our nation has fought through, what it is now, and what we can help it become.

Or in the words engraved on the MLK memorial: "Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in."

5 MLK, FDR, and WWII Memorial Highlights (You Can Do)

1. Visit After 5 PM On A Weekday

Often overrun with tourists and school groups during the daytime and weekends, evenings at the Memorials are a perfect time if you want some less chaotic and less noisy time. It helps with pictures too!

2. Take A Picture With FDR's Dog "Fala," In FDR's Lap, And In The Depression Era Bread Line

These are classic photos from any middle-school, or adult, tour group (just watch out for the classic middle-school photo at the Washington Monument...)

Seen here is Ryan, one of the "Humans Of National Parks" featured on my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts from every one of the 400+ national parks.

Snapchat adds some fun options too...

3. Walk The Walls Of Quotes

MLK and FDR said some pretty amazing words. Some might even say they "had the best words" as is a popular current political saying.

The WWII Memorial also shares prolific lessons learned about America's people.

My trip's mascot "Easy E" makes an appearance on top of Fala. Don't forget to follow his adventures on my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.

4. Find Your State

Did you know that in the WWII Memorial the states are ordered, alternating sides, based on when they entered the Union? Even American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the other territories are included.

5. Take A Stroll

The walk between the MLK and FDR Memorials is one of my favorites on the Mall. Lined with cherry blossoms in the spring, warm greenery in the summer, and beautiful tidal basin views in any season, it's perfect for a calm stroll away from the crowds.

10 Upcoming Units (COMMENT with recommendations please! What should I do at each park? Local interesting detours? Food stops?)

(Plus a Bonus 5 -- these are the remaining units in DC proper)

-Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site

-Constitution Gardens

-Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

-Korean War Veterans Memorial

-Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac

-Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site

-National Mall

-Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site

-Rock Creek Park

-Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial

-Vietnam Veterans Memorial

-White House, The

-National Capital Parks

-World War 1 Memorial in Pershing Park

-Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument

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