by AARON BROM
SUN PRESS Newspapers
It was personally relevant to see a photo of the Obamas and Carters in front of the Lincoln Memorial, recognizing the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous March on Washington.
Lincoln’s gaze over the Reflecting Pool and right into the heart of the Washington Momument is a scene recognized by any American and millions of others in the world. What was so neat is that I was standing on that same landscape not nine days prior, during my first ever visit to our Nation’s Capital. As I reflect back upon what I learned in this most famous American city, I think it can be summed up best with one word, patriotism.
It started with a walk to the White House, and then to the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial. From there I took a tour of the Korean, Vietnam and W.W. II memorials.
One of my earliest observations of the surroundings was the high number of foreign speaking people flocking to these same sites. When I say high number I’m guessing more than 50 percent of the people touring the sites around the Reflecting Pool were not from this country. I realized that this is a beautiful thing, in the sense that our nation’s history and monuments not only capture the hearts of American visitors but those of European, Asian, Latin American and African descent whose countries were certainly inspired by the great democratic movement that began with our Founding Fathers so many years ago.
One of the first things I did on my second day in D.C. was to visit the National Archives. This is where you can gaze admiringly on the very documents that founded our democratic society, namely the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. I experienced an emotion of sorts that I just couldn’t quite nail down, but I guess could best be described as mere pride. Pride in being a citizen of such a great country that many, including myself, probably take too much for granted considering all the horrible places in the world where other citizens strive for the everyday freedoms that Americans enjoy.
I also hit the popular Smithsonian sites on my second and third days. Each inspires their own form of patriotic pride, like the Air and Space Museum, where you can see the first ever Wright Brothers airplane or the space capsule used on the first Apollo moon mission. These are moments from American history that forever changed not just the country but the world.
One of the most touching pieces at the Smithsonian American History museum was the very flag from the War of 1812 that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen our nation’s Star Spangled Banner anthem.
It’s not just American history on American soil that captivated my pride. At the National Holocaust Museum, which chronicled the terrible suffering endured by an entire race of European Jews, I felt a huge lump in my throat as a survivor described on video being rescued at a concentration camp by an American Jewish soldier.
The great thing is that it wasn’t just in D.C. where I experienced such feelings of pride in my country. Right outside D.C. is the Arlington National Cemetery, where I was so moved by the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and where neither rain, sleet, snow or debilitating heat would stop for one moment the stoic soldiers guarding this treasured site.
During a trip further into Virginia, I visited perhaps what ended up being my favorite museum, the U.S. Marine Corps National Museum in Quantico. Here was a detailed history not just of this most noble group of soldiers, but of all the famous wars and battles where these brave men fought, many who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for their country. I was most moved staring at the very flag that was triumphantly raised by Marines at the battle of Iwo Jima, of which became one of, if not the most famous image from all of W.W. II (the museum’s exterior design was fashioned from this image).
My patriotic journey finally took me to Fredericksburg, Va., where I walked the hallowed grounds of two famous Civil War sites, the Battle of Fredericksburg and the Battle of Chancellorsville, each of which was lost badly by the Federals. So many brave thousands of Federals and Confederates gave their lives on these lands where I walked upon with such reverence.
So back in Minnesota, where history is so recent compared to our nation’s roots in the Colonial east, I reflect upon what my trip means to me, and what it means to be an American. I say with the highest admiration to all the men and women who have fought for, and still fight for, the freedoms that we take for granted every day … I have never felt more patriotic.
Contact Aaron Brom at firstname.lastname@example.org