Archive for the ‘Memorials’ Category

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Montford Point Marines Memorial

On this lunchtime bike ride I found myself in Arlington National Cemetery.  And  because bike riding is prohibited in the cemetery, I decided to go for a walk.  It was during my walk that I happened upon a marker in the shade of a tree, in Section 23 of the cemetery, off Farragut Drive (MAP).  On the marker is an inscription that reads:

“The footprints of the Montford Point Marines were left on the beaches of Roi-Namur, Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. The tides and winds have, long ago, washed them out into the seas of history; but,
“The Chosen Few”
in field shoes and canvas leggings, also left their marks in the firm concrete of Marine Corps history. And as new generations of Marines learn to march in those footprints, their cadence assumes the proud stride of the men of Montford Point.”
Gen. Leonard F. Chapman, Jr.

So later, after I got back from my ride, I decided to do some research on the marker, and the Montford Point marines, to learn more about them.

The marker was placed in the cemetery and dedicated on November 13, 1996, by the Montford Point Marine Association, as a memorial to the legacy of the first African-Americans to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps, which took place after President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an Executive Order in June 1941, establishing the Fair Employment Practices Commission and ordering the armed services, including the Marine Corps, to recruit and enlist African Americans.

These marines got their name because they trained at the then-segregated Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, North Carolina, beginning on August 26, 1942.  Between 1942 and 1949, more than 20,000 men were trained at Montford Point.  In July 1948, despite strong opposition from Democrats of the segregated South, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which required the desegregation of the military.   The resulting changes caused the camp do be decommissioned in September of the following year, and new African-American recruits were then-after trained along with other marines at Parris Island and Camp Pendleton.

Some of the more notable Montford Point marines include: Sgt. Maj. Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson, one of the first African Americans to enlist and serve as a drill instructor in the Marine Corps; Frederick C. Branch, the first African-American officer of the United States Marine Corps; David Dinkins, former Mayor of New York City; Arthur Earley, Pennsylvania State Representative, and; Marion Meredith Beal, an original member and a recipient of Congressional Gold Medal as an appreciation for the first African-American to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps. However, we only know the names of about 1,200 of the approximately 20,000 Montford Point marines. Only approximately 300 of these marines are still alive, and we are losing them rapidly, which makes memorials like this one all the more important.

Note:  There is also an official memorial to the Montford Point Marines located within the LeJeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, N.C., and a Montford Point Marine Museum, located on the grounds of Montford Point Camp in the East Wing of building M101, Marine Corps Base, Camp Gilbert H. Johnson, Jacksonville, N.C.

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The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, also known as the Tomb of the Unknowns, is not the only local memorial dedicated to soldiers who had died in battle but later could not be identified.  There is The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution, located in the churchyard Burial Ground of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria.  And during this lunchtime bike ride, I rode to another of these memorials.  I visited The Civil War Unknowns Memorial.  It is also located in Arlington National Cemetery, on the grounds of Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial.  And the memorial I saw today actually predates the other two, making it the earliest such memorial in the local area.

In 1865, U.S. Army Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs decided to build a memorial to Civil War dead.  The following year, in September of 1866, The Civil War Unknowns Memorial, was dedicated.  It stands atop a masonry vault containing the remains of 2,111 soldiers gathered from the battlefields of first and second battles of Bull Run as well as the route of the Union army’s retreat along the Rappahannock River.  The remains were found scattered across the battlefields or in trenches and brought to the cemetery.  None were identifiable.  And because in some instances only a few bones or a skull was recovered, it is presumed the vault contains the remains of both Confederate and Union Soldiers.

In constructing the memorial a circular pit, measuring approximately 20 feet wide and 20 feet deep, was dug.  The walls and floor were lined with brick, and it was segmented it into compartments with mortared brick walls.  Into each compartment were placed a different body part: skulls, legs, arms, ribs, etc.  The vault was then  sealed with concrete and soil.  Atop the burial vault was placed a 6-foot tall, 12-foot long, and 4-foot wide grey granite and concrete cenotaph, which was personally designed by General Meigs.  On the west face is an inscription that reads:

BENEATH THIS STONE
REPOSE THE BONES OF TWO THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN UNKNOWN SOLDIERS
GATHERED AFTER THE WAR
FROM THE FIELDS OF BULL RUN, AND THE ROUTE TO THE RAPPAHANOCK,
THEIR REMAINS COULD NOT BE IDENTIFIED. BUT THEIR NAMES AND DEATHS ARE
RECORDED IN THE ARCHIVES OF THEIR COUNTRY, AND ITS GRATEFUL CITIZENS
HONOR THEM AS OF THEIR NOBLE ARMY OF MARTYRS. MAY THEY REST IN PEACE.
SEPTEMBER. A. D. 1866.

The original memorial has undergone a number of aesthetic changes over the years.  But it’s original purpose, to honor our country’s unidentified dead from the Civil War, remains unchanged.

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C&O Canal Completion Marker

The Washington Monument is an iconic obelisk that for many symbolizes the city of D.C.   But it is not the oldest obelisk in the city.  That honor goes to the one enclosed by a cast iron fence on the northwest corner of the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge (MAP), located in the city’s Georgetown neighborhood, that commemorates the completion of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.  The C&O Canal’s monument is approximately ten feet tall, and was dedicated in 1850.  While that was two years after construction began on The Washington Monument, enormous structures necessarily take more time to build and the 555-foot Washington Monument wasn’t completed until 1885.

Despite being right next to a sidewalk along one of the busy streets of Georgetown, the C&O Canal obelisk is often overlooked these days by impatient passersby as they hurry along their way.  The canal itself is often overlooked as well, considered just part of the scenery.  But in its heyday the canal, also known as the “Grand Old Ditch,” was one of the primary modes of transporting materials into and out of the city for almost a century, operating from 1831 until 1924 along the Potomac River from D.C., to Cumberland, Maryland.

Throughout the canal’s 184.5 mile length the elevation change rises and falls a total of 605 feet, which necessitated the construction of 74 canal locks (a device used for raising and lowering boats, ships and other watercraft between stretches of water of different levels), 11 aqueducts (bridge structures that carry navigable waterway canals over obstacles) to cross major streams, and more than 240 culverts (structures that allows water to flow under an obstacle) to cross smaller streams.  A 3,118-foot-long tunnel, named the Paw Paw Tunnel, was also constructed to allow the canal to bypass the Paw Paw Bends, a six-mile stretch of the Potomac River containing five horseshoe-shaped bends.  An extension of the canal to the Ohio River at Pittsburgh was planned but never built.

While in operation the canal was integral to transporting sand, gravel, clay, paving stones, fire bricks, cement and lumber for construction of the expanding city, as well as bringing slaughtered hogs and meat, fresh and salted fish, flour, oats and grains, corn meal, whiskey and spirits, as well as coal from the Allegheny Mountains and other general merchandise to feed and provide for the city’s burgeoning population.

Without the canal, the city would not be what it is today.  That’s a lot of significance symbolized by a small, overlooked obelisk.

    

    
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Note:  The canal way is now maintained as the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, with a multi-use trail that follows the old towpath.  The canal and towpath trail parallels the Potomac River and extends from D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland, a distance of 184.5 miles.  Together with the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage, a rail trail where the extension of the C&O Canal to Pittsburgh would have been if it had been completed, they form a continuous 334.5-mile trail between D.C. and Pittsburgh.

The Poppy Wall of Honor

During today’s last lunchtime bike ride before Memorial Day, I was riding along the National Mall near The National World War II Memorial when I saw some sort of red display in the distance on the southwestern side of The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. So, naturally, I rode over to get a better look and find out about it. It turned out to be a new, temporary monument in honor of Memorial Day called The Poppy Wall of Honor.

Since World War I, more than 645,000 men and women have given their lives in combat to defend our freedom. And the poppy flower serves as a symbol of that sacrifice. Wearing a poppy flower, known as a Remembrance Poppy, is done on Memorial Day and Veterans Day as a way to honor these fallen heroes. I remember my Dad always had a remembrance poppy at both Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

My Dad would also recite a poem from memory entitled “In Flanders Fields,” written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian Physician during the First World War. McCrae was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it.

“In Flanders Fields” was first published on December 8th of 1915. And it became so popular that the poem and poppy became prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly in Canada. The poem is also widely known in the United States, where it is associated with Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Inspired by the poem, the poppy flower also became an American symbol of remembrance in 1920 when it was brought forward by Moina Michael, an American professor and volunteer for the American YWCA, during the National American Legion Conference.

Sponsored by the USAA Company in cooperation with the National Park Service, The Poppy Wall of Honor is a 133-foot-long, 8 1/2 foot-tall translucent structure filled with more than 645,000 synthetic Remembrance Poppy Flowers, one for each fallen American service member. This year the exhibit also honors the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

The Poppy Wall of Honor is open to the public daily for viewing from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., through Memorial Day. But if you can’t visit it in person, there’s also an online virtual reality experience for viewers to explore.

 

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The Poppy Wall of Honor

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you, from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow,
In Flanders fields.

Mementos Left at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial

This week is National Police Week, and tomorrow is Peace Officers Memorial Day. And during this time there is no more meaningful place to visit than The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (NLEOM), located at 450 F Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Judiciary Square neighborhood. And that’s where I went during today’s lunch break.

Engravers Jim Lee and Kirk Bockman are responsible for adding the names of fallen law enforcement officers to the walls of the NLEOM here in D.C. And this year, they are adding the names of 371 officers, including 158 who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty in 2018.

An additional 213 officers who died earlier in history, but whose sacrifice had not been previously documented, were also added to the NLEOM this year. Among them is Chesterfield County (Va.) Sheriff Benjamin Branch; whose end of watch on April 29, 1786, making him the oldest known officer death on the memorial. In total, there are 21,910 officers’ names engraved on the Memorial, representing all 50 states, D.C., U.S. territories, federal law enforcement, and military police agencies.

And as it always is during National Police Week, there are hundreds of personal mementos left at the Memorial. It’s these personal mementos that I find to be one of the most poignant parts of the week. They go beyond numbers and statistics, beyond names engraved on the NLEOM’s walls, and give a glimpse of the actual people represented by the names on the Memorial. The mementos show us that these people are missed by their collegues, families, and other loved ones they left behind.

Pay close attention to the details in these photographs. The mementos and the memorial are not just about how their lives ended, but about how these heroes lived their lives. And this is the true meaning of this week.

 

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Links to Previous Police Week Posts on this Blog

Howard Theater Walk of Fame

On this lunchtime bike ride, I stopped riding and walked my bike one the sidewalk starting north on 7th Street beginning at S Street (MAP), and rounding the corner onto T Street before ending at The Howard Theatre in northwest D.C.’s U Street neighborhood.  I did this so that I could see the sidewalk medallions that comprise The Howard Theater Walk of Fame.

The concept for the new walk of fame was in development since 2008 by the Shaw and LeDroit Park communities in their passion to preserve and honor the rich history of the historic Howard Theatre, and was subsequently commissioned by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities in partnership with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and Cultural Tourism D.C., a nonprofit that promotes the arts across the city.

After a call for artists in 2016, D.C.-based design firm Hackreative along with sculptors Jay Coleman and Joanna Blake were selected to design the medallions. Their pieces draw design elements from the architecture of the Howard Theatre itself, including the braided arch and banner on the building’s sign, and the block frame around the marquee.

The walk of fame consists of fifteen medallions memorializing and recognizing different artists and musicians that have performed at the Howard Theater since it first opened in 1910, who were chosed by a panel of representatives from the commissioning groups, plus a few Shaw and LeDroit Park leaders.  The medallions honor Pearl Bailey, Chuck Brown, James Brown, Ruth Brown, Cab Calloway, The Clovers, Billy Eckstine, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Hampton, Moms Mabley, Abbie Mitchell, Billy Taylor, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and a combination of Howard Theatre managers and owners.  Upright signs that detail the history of the theater and the artists represented bookend the project.

After today’s ride, I later went home and listened to performances by the artists recognized by the walk of fame.  That music was a perfect way to end the day, and a long workweek.

 

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The Thomas Hollowell Ghost Bike

Sadly, during my recent hiatis from my daily lunchtime bike rides, another ghost bike was erected here in D.C.  A ghost bike is a bicycle that is painted white and left as a memorial at a site where a cyclist was fatally injured by a collision with a motor vehicle.  It serves as a reminder of the vulnerability of cyclists.

This most-recent ghost bike was placed at the intersection of Constitution Avenue and 12th Street (MAP), in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood, to remember a Virginia cyclist named Thomas Hollowell, who was hit and killed at that intersection on September 24, 2018.  He was struck by a speeding car that drove through a red light.  The driver then fled the scene, leaving the 64-year old cyclist dying in the street just steps from his job at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where he was commuting at the time he was killed.  It is also just a block away from my office.  Almost three weeks later police arrested 20-year-old Phillip Peoples of Suitland, Maryland, and charged him with second degree murder in the death of Hollowell.  A D.C. Superior Court judge ordered Peoples jailed without bond pending trial, where he remains today.

So now that I’m back out riding again for my lunchtime bike rides, I rode to the intersection where Hollowell was killed to see the ghost bike and pay my respects.

Hollowell is the latest of several cyclists or scooter riders to die on D.C. streets in the last year.  The most recent accident prior to Hollowell’s involved 20-year-old Maryland resident named Carlos Alejandro Sanchez-Martin, who was hit and killed by a car in September while riding a scooter through Dupont Circle.  Before that, Jeffrey Hammond Long, was also struck and killed in DuPont Circle while riding his bike.

Ironically, Carol Regier, his wife, shared with those present at the memorial ride during which the ghost bike was placed at the intersection, that “He was very, very interested in coming up with new ideas about how to make cycling more safe.  How to make it so cars could see the bicycles on the road better and how to get the cars to be a little more conscious of the fact that there are other people on the road.”  It is my sincere hope that this happens before there is a need for another ghost bike here in D.C., or anywhere else.

 

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A Ghost Bike in DuPont Circle

On this bike ride, in northwest D.C.’s DuPont Circle neighborhood, as I was riding near the intersection of M Street and New Hampshire Avenue (MAP), I saw a sight that no one, especially a cyclist, ever wants to see – a ghost bike. A ghost bike is a bicycle that is painted white and left as a memorial at a site where a cyclist was fatally injured by a collision with a motor vehicle.

This particular ghost bike was put there in memory of Jeffrey Hammond Long, a 36 year-old D.C. resident who was struck and killed at about 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 7th, just ten days ago. Jeffery was riding in a designated bike lane when a large truck, which was travelling in the same direction as Jeffrey, turned into the bike lane as it attempted to make a right turn onto New Hampshire Avenue. The truck crashed into Long, causing him to fall beneath the truck. Medics took Jeffrey to a hospital, but he was pronounced dead the next day.

Many cyclists, and even pedestrians, who are familiar with the intersection say it’s known to be unsafe. And I agree. I have been through the area and that particular intersection numerous times. And although I have never been involved in an accident, I have seen vehicles parked in the bike lane, or even traveling in the wrong direction on M Street. So later, after my ride, I looked into it and discovered that at least seven other crashes have occurred at the intersection involving cyclists in the past three and a half years. And a collision two years ago resulted in the death of a pedestrian crossing the street.

And a few days ago the District Department of Transportation agreed that the intersection is unnecessarily dangerous, and removed four parking spaces on M Street near the intersection to allow for better visibility for drivers making a right turn across the road’s bike lane. DDOT also announced that the sidewalk will be widened in the near future. It’s sad that DDOT did not make the changes prior to the devastating accident that took Jeffrey’s life. It was an accident that was preventable. But hopefully they will learn from this and proactively work to make other known dangerous areas safer before another cyclist dies.

The D.C. Department of Transportation said on Twitter that it is working with the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District and other city agencies to expand the sidewalk along M Street. The agency said plans are to realign the M Street bike lane adjacent to Duke Ellington Park, but more details will be provided by the business group later this month.

UPDATE (07/19/2018):  In response to the death of Jeffrey and other recent preventable deaths in D.C., the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) hosted the “Rally For Streets That Don’t Kill People” in front of the John A. Wilson Building on Pennsylvania Avenue today. I attended the rally, along with between 150 and 200 cyclists and concerned citizens.

Three years ago, Mayor Bowser committed to eliminating traffic fatalities in D.C. by 2024. But since then the numbers have only gone up. Since then, more than a hundred people have died on the city’s streets. The rally was intended to demand swift action to stop the deaths on our roads, and to communicate that every single one of those deaths could have been prevented and the city just isn’t doing enough.

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Chaplains Hill and Monuments

On today’s bike ride I rode to Arlington National Cemetery because I had not been there for awhile, and because there is always something new to me to discover there. And as I was walking through the cemetery I saw some unusual gravestones, four of them together on the top of a small hill, that had large brass plaques on them. So naturally I went over to see them better and find out what they are.

It turns out they are on the top of what is called Chaplains Hill, which is located in Section 2 of the cemetery. And the four gravestones are actually cenotaphs, which are monuments erected in honor of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere, especially commemorating people who died in a war. The cenotaphs are dedicated to the memory of chaplains who have served in the United States Armed Forces.The four monuments on Chaplains Hill are to those lost in World War I, to Protestant Chaplains, to Catholic Chaplains, and to Jewish Chaplains, were dedicated at different times over almost a century.

The first of the four cenotaphs was dedicated on May 5, 1926, by chaplains who served in World War I. The monument honored the twenty-three chaplains who died in that war. Two quotations are inscribed on the cenotaph: “Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends,” and “To You From Falling Hands We Throw The Torch – Be Yours To Hold It High.”

The second cenotaph is a memorial to the 134 Protestant Chaplains who died in World Wars I and II. It was dedicated on October 26, 1981, and the inscription reads: “To The Glory of God And The Memory Of The Chaplains Who Died In Services Of Their Country.”

A cenotaph to the 83 Catholic Chaplains who died in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam was dedicated and placed on Chaplains Hill on May 21, 1989. The monument is inscribed: “May God Grant Peace To Them And To The Nation They Served So Well.”

The remaining cenotaph is dedicated to 14 Jewish Chaplains who died while serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, and was dedicated October 24, 2011. One of the inscriptions on the monument reads: “Dedicated to the Jewish chaplains who have served our country in the United States Armed Forces. May the memory of those who perished while in service be a blessing.”

Additionally, among the individuals honored at Arlington National’s Chaplains Hill include: the Army’s first Chief of Chaplains, Colonel John T. Axton of World War I; World War II’s Chief of Chaplains William A. Arnold, who was the first Chaplain to make General; and Major Charles Joseph Watters who served in Vietnam and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on November 19, 1967. Unarmed, Watters was rendering aid to fallen comrades, disregarding his own safety when he was killed by a bomb explosion. Watters is one of eight members from the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps who have been awarded the Medal of Honor: four from the Civil War; one from the Boxer Rebellion; two from the Vietnam War; and one from the Korean War.

Also honored are four U.S. Army chaplains who in 1943 gave up their life jackets and prayed together when their transport ship, the USAT Dorchester, was torpedoed eighty miles south of Greenland. The chaplains came from different faiths and backgrounds. John P. Washington was a Catholic Priest from Kearny, New Jersey; Rabbi Alexander D. Goode was a native of York, Pennsylvania; Clark V. Poling was a minister in the Reformed Church in America at the First Reformed Church in Schenectady, New York; and George L. Fox, a decorated World War I veteran, was a Methodist minister in Gilman, Vermont.

Chaplains have the rank of a military commissioned officer and serve the dual roles of religious leader and staff officer, but do not possess the duties or responsibilities of command. Service regulations further prohibit chaplains from bearing arms and classify chaplains as noncombatants. Article 24 of the Geneva Convention identifies chaplains as protected personnel in their function and capacity as ministers of religion. But despite this, 419 military chaplains have died in wars since the founding of this country. The breakdown, by war, is as follows: 25 in the Revolutionary War; one each in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War; 117 on Union side, 41 on the Confederacy side during the Civil War; 23 in World War I; 182 in World War II, 13 in the Korean War; 15 in the war in Vietnam, and one in Iraq/Afghanistan.
 

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Police Week Tributes 2018

This week is National Police Week, and during this lunchtime bike ride I stopped by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.  I stop by every year during National Police Week because it is one of the most personal and deeply meaningful aspects of the week.  The things you see here in D.C. during the week can be entertaining, like the various vehicles.  And the Blue Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, to include the procession that precedes it, as well as the Peace Officers Memorial Service like the one yesterday, are all quite moving.  But to better understand the sacrifices made by the officers being honored and remembered, and the loss and the pain of the family members, friends and fellow officers they left behind, looking through the tributes left on or near the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is one of the most meaningful ways to do it.

Beginning last year, one of the first things I look for at the memorial are tributes left in memory of Officer Ashley Guindon (see photo above), a local area officer who was ambushed and killed in 2016 on her very first day on the job.  Her name was added to the wall last year.  After that, as I look through the tributes, I try to imagine the stories behind them.  When I see them some of the tributes such as official photos and news articles give me a glimpse into the personality of the hero lost.  And when I see small footprints or handprints made with paint, or family photos taken during happier times, I think about the children who are growing up without a parent.  When I see beer or a couple of shot glasses, I think about the partners and coworkers who used to go out for a drink after their shift or maybe on the weekend, but are now learning to live with the pain of their loss.  When I see hearts or flowers or other personal mementos, I think of the spouses or other family members who will never see their loved ones again during this lifetime.  And when I see tributes to officers who were killed years or even decades ago it shows me that the passage of time does not diminish the losses suffered.

The tributes left behind at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial change every year, sadly, much like the memorial itself, to which names are added every year.  But the names are more than just inscriptions in cold marble.  They are the names of men and women who were heroes.  But they were not just heroes for the way they died.  They were heroes for the way they lived.  And the tributes left at the memorial help convey that to those of us for who they died to serve and protect.

 

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