By Eric Anderson
The most recognizable components in Washington D.C. are obviously the monuments; giant obelisks, statues and buildings that are devoted to the individuals who have made indelible impacts on the country. These monuments have so much value that is not accurately depicted from a picture or a movie, and often the importance and symbolism get lost in it becoming a generic landmark.
Take notice the next time that you are watching a movie where the characters are in Washington D.C. I am willing to assume that more than nine times out of ten the Washington Monument will be shown at least once. This monument has become the physical representation of a “buzz word”: It looks good, everyone can understand what it is, but it doesn’t really have any deeper meaning when used in the manner that it so often is pictured. The deep-rooted symbolism was lost on me until I got to see these monuments in person, when everything becomes so much more real.
I came to this realization as I stepped into the Lincoln Memorial. I knew exactly what the memorial looked like from textbooks, pictures, and the media. I knew that Lincoln sat in his chair overlooking the Washington Monument and reflecting pool. I knew that to the right was his Second Inaugural Address and to the left was his Gettysburg address. But when I entered the monument, a wave of emotion flooded over me; his words are carved into the walls, honored with a religious semblance. I found it breathtaking and marveled in the shrine to one of the most influential and important people who had an impact on America. I found a comfort in its permanence and knowing that I had become a part of those who have derived meaning from these massive marble walls while also recognizing that I will not be the last.
While the memorialization of our presidents who have made great impacts on our country is powerful, I found the memorials to our soldiers throughout the wars that we have been involved in to be even more powerful. I have always had a great appreciation for the men and women that have died protecting our country and the freedom of others; however the true sacrifice that these people have made seems to be overlooked.
I exited the Lincoln Memorial and made my way to the Vietnam Memorial still trying to process the experience that I just had. The Vietnam Memorial is not flashy, yet remains very powerful; as I was walking across the monument I was looking at the wall filled with all the names of those who died. Even more sobering than the sheer number of names on the walls is the realization that the people who died were my age, which really made me reflect on my life and what I am doing for my country.
When looking at these monuments in Washington D.C. with the right lens, their impact will set heavy on you, which is not a bad thing. It is a connection to your country and the historical impact of those who have come before us.