Visiting D.C. war memorials with veterans brings history to life

Cary Ashby • Oct 25, 2018 at 3:00 PM

It’s been more than a week and I still am attempting to process everything I experienced during the three-day Huron County Honor Trip.

After all, it was a jam-packed three days, starting with leaving the Norwalk VFW at 6 a.m. Oct. 12. It was a whirlwind — in the best kind of way — until our group arrived back at 140 Milan Ave. about 10 p.m. three days later. Our average time for returning to our hotel was 11:15 p.m. 

More than 30 veterans, their spouses, family members and eight Norwalk and St. Paul high school students were on the trip. The event included tours of the Vietnam Veterans, Lincoln, Marine Corps, Korean War, World War II, Air Force, Pentagon and American Veterans Disabled for Life memorials in and near the nation’s capital.

Before I get too far, I once again need to thank Thom Price and Nate Whaley for inviting me and my boss, Joe Centers, for giving me a work day to go. Also I’m grateful for my “bus buddy,” Jim Alt, of Bellevue, a Vietnam vet. It was, a delight and well, an honor, to travel with him and talk about life and our trip experiences for three days.

The vets, family members and students I interviewed for my four-part series shared their favorite memorials — namely the Korean War, Pentagon and Vietnam veterans.

My two favorites were the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Va. and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Another highlight of the trip was our first stop, the hangar for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum near Dulles International Airport. Seeing the space shuttle Discovery, a stealth jet and one of the Concordes in person was a delight for the senses; attempting to give the proper perspective on just how massive those ships are is nearly impossible.

There is no denying I got a random chill up and down my spine when I saw the imposing and noble statue of the seated Abraham Lincoln the first time. Visiting that memorial was a bucket-list item. The view of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument from the steps is a sight to behold.

When our group returned to the National Mall area the night of Oct. 13, it shouldn’t surprise you that I returned. There are two videos I made there for the Norwalk Reflector Facebook page — once during the day and the second that night. 

We visited the Marine Corps Memorial, commonly called the Iwo Jima memorial, the night of Oct. 12 after a great buffet provided by American Legion Post No. 177 in Fairfax, Va. At first I was disappointed I would see it at night — and then I took in the fantastic lighting of the iconic statue of the Marines planting the American flag. Powerful stuff.

Family lore has it that my maternal grandfather, the Rev. Philip Cary Adams, saw the flag go up from his ship during World War II. What a great connection to history.

Known as “P. Cary” to his friends, Gramps was a lieutenant commander, serving as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy. From 1943 through 1945, he was in the 106th Seabee Batallion in California and served on the hospital ship U.S.S. Solace AH-5. 

Get this: Gramps already had served in World War I. He was nearly 50 years old and firmly in his career as a Presbyterian pastor in Birmingham, Ala. when he felt the call to serve his country — again. There’s no doubt why journalist Tom Brokaw called people from that era “The Greatest Generation.”

Since the Norwalk Reflector published my first installment in my four-part series, I’ve received quite a bit of positive feedback from readers who have enjoyed what I wrote.

I can only hope I did my little part to share vets’ stories and provide you some insight into what it’s like to be in the presence of so many must-see memorials. If you get the opportunity to tour Washington, take advantage. And if you can do so with a veteran, take time to be fully present and hear what he or she experienced.

Ask questions. That’s when history becomes alive.

Follow Reflector staff writer Cary Ashby on Facebook at “Cary Ashby — reporter & comic book blogger” and on Twitter at @Cary_reporter.

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