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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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Bluestone Sidewalk Along Seventeenth Street

During today’s lunchtime bike ride I stopped to rest on a bench on 17th Street, near President’s Park, just south of the White House. As I sat there for a few moments watching the tourists go by, I noticed that the sidewalk seemed different than what I usually see. In fact, I didn’t recall seeing anything similar here in D.C. Sidewalks throughout the city are typically formed walkways made out of cement. But the sidewalks where I was sitting were made of stone. So when I had a chance later I looked into it, and my research confirmed that they are both unique and historic.

The sidewalk is significant as the last remaining segment of an original streetscape feature used throughout President’s Park. While President’s Park South was filled and completed in the late 1870s, the side of the park along 17th Street was a low, badly drained area until new fill was added to bring it up to grade in the early 1880s. Then beginning in 1887, bluestone flag sidewalks were constructed along the front of the park bordering B Street, since renamed Constitution Avenue. While no date of construction can be firmly ascertained for the bluestone flag sidewalk on Seventeenth Street, it likely dates from this period or soon afterwards. A grassy strip between the sidewalk and the street was later added in the 1920s.

Most of the bluestone sidewalk surrounding President’s Park was eventually replaced with ones constructed with cement forms. As the stones cracked or fell into disrepair, it was decided that it would be cheaper to simply replace them with the same type of sidewalk that is present throughout the rest of the city. This was done everywhere except, for some reason, along 17th Street.

What stone sidewalk remains consists of rectangular bluestone slate flags, six-feet square, and extends along the east side of 17th Street from opposite C Street to opposite E Street (MAP). The sidewalk is separated from the granite curb by what was once a three-foot wide grassy strip, which is now filled in with granite pavers.

The sidewalk is not a tourist attraction. In fact, I doubt anyone walking on it even noticed it was different, let alone had any idea of its history. But I enjoyed seeing it, and thinking back about the way things were at the time when the bluestone sidewalks were constructed. The Civil War had been over for not all that long, and Grover Cleveland was the President.  The Washington Monument was almost completed and would open the following year.  The Catholic University of America was founded, and the first Woodward & Lothrop department store was built. Alexander Graham Bell built his Volta Laboratory in Georgetown. There were no automobiles, so the streets were used by horses and carriages. And form and quality were considerations in public building projects, not just price and practicality.

         
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Yesterday was National Cancer Survivors Day. And to celebrate I signed up for the Great Cycling Challenge (GCC). Let me explain.

The concept of the GCC is simple. Participants set a personal riding goal for the month of June, and then get people to sponsor them. And all of the money raised from the sponsors goes toward fighting childhood cancers.

As it states on the front page of this blog, I’m not a fanatical cyclist. I’m just a guy who goes for bike rides. I use my lunch break each day at work, or occasionally on a weekend day off, to go for a ride and discover some of the interesting sites and events in and around D.C. I then write about it in this blog.

But I am now committed to some bike riding that is a little different than my norm. I have pledged to ride 250 miles during my lunchtime tides this month. That puts me on a pace to ride a cumulative distance during this year’s lunchtime bike rides equal to the distance between New York City and Los Angeles.

As a cancer survivor myself I know how scary and difficult such a diagnosis can be. But I was diagnosed as an adult. I can’t begin to imagine how much more scary and difficult it is for children. And despite being a parent, I can’t imagine what it is like for the parents of a diagnosed child. I love my children more than my own life and would rather have cancer myself than see one of my children diagnosed.

Currently, cancer is the biggest killer of children from disease in the United States. Over 15,700 children are diagnosed every year. And tragically, 38 children die of cancer every week.

So I signed up for the GCC to raise money to help these kids and their parents fight back, and to support The Children’s Cancer Research Fund in continuing their work to develop lifesaving treatments and find cures for childhood cancers. And I’m asking you to please go to my personal GCC page and sign up to be one of my sponsors.

I know there are lots of charity options, as well as bills to pay and other demands on your finances. So any amount you can give will be appreciated. All you have to do is go to my GCC personal page, or click on the logo at the top of this post, to donate using a credit card or PayPal. And like the lack of a minimum or maximum number of miles participants can ride, there is no minimum or maximum to the donations.

Anything you can give will help keep me motivated. But more importantly, it will help the kids. And I can’t think of a better was to celebrate being cancer free than do something to help kids with cancer.

More May Flowers

Posted: May 31, 2018 in Gardens, Photos
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More May Flowers

The city’s cherry blossoms are world renowned, attracting millions of visitors during their peak bloom, which usually occurs during the month of April.  Sadly, many of those visitors then leave without being here to see the beautiful blooms that are here during the following month.  But the month of May should not be overlooked when it comes to beautiful blooms.  Although the cherry blossoms are usually long gone by the time May arrives, the variety of the flowers blooming during May are every bit as beautiful as the more famous cherry blossoms, as these photos show.

Much like last year’s post, the photographs in this blog post are some of the ones I took during the month of May. There are thirty-one photos included in this post, one for each day during the past month. I chose them based on the photo itself, and not just the flower in it. But I also tried to include photos of a variety of flowers so as to show the diversity and beauty of the gardens and grounds of many of this city’s homes, where all of these photos were taken.

I’d also like to remind you, however, that I am not a professional photographer and I do not have a fancy camera. These photos, like all the ones in this blog, were taken with my cell phone. I think they turned out fairly well though. So be sure to click on the thumbnails for the larger versions so you can see the intricacy, complexity and the full beauty of the flowers. And I hope you enjoy these photographs as much as I enjoyed riding around and taking them.

 

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This Year’s Soggy National Bike to Work Day

The month of May is National Bike Month, May 14 through 18, 2018 is Bike to Work Week, and today was Bike to Work Day. And although it hasn’t been raining all month, it has been raining all week. And it continued to rain all day today. But Bike to Work Day is a rain or shine event, but that didn’t stop this morning’s Bike to Work Day event, which went on more or less as planned.

The League of American Bicyclists began Bike to Work Day as part of Bike Month in 1956. Over the years, Bike to Work Day has grown into a widespread event with countless bicyclists taking to streets and trails nationwide in an effort to get commuters to try bicycling to work as a healthy and safe alternative to driving a car. In the greater D.C. region, Bike to Work Day has grown from a small group of a few hundred in 2001 to more than 18,700 participants last year.  This year’s event was coordinated locally by Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) . And even more riders were expected to participate this morning.

Each year WABA, along with local bike shops and organizations, sponsor 100 pit stops along many of the commuter routes in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The pit stop which I signed up for was to be located at Freedom Plaza, the same pit stop where I’ve stopped for the last several years.  But due to the rain it had to be moved across the street and inside to the lobby of the National Theater, located at 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP).  I also rode by some of the other pit stops.  They were a little less crowded than previous years’ pit stops have been, but I was able to pick up my free T-shirt, as well as have a nice breakfast of a breakfast burrito, a fresh banana, and a bottle of pomegranate blue acai juice.   They also were handing out other fresh fruit, granola bars, locally-baked bagels, and various other snack items. They also gave away other free items like water bottles, sunglasses, tire repair kits, bike lights and bells, area maps, etc.  And by signing up and stopping at the pit stop I was also entered into a raffle for a new bike.  So the pit stop all served their purpose, including the indoor one, even if I didn’t win the new bike.

         
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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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The 37th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service

Today is Peace Officers Memorial DayThe idea of a Peace Officers Memorial Day came into effect when Congress asked the president to designate May 15 as a day “to pay tribute to the law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and to voice our appreciation for all those who currently serve on the front lines of the battle against crime.”  President John F. Kennedy signed the bill into law on October 1, 1961.   

In observance of this event, this afternoon I attended the National Peace Officers Memorial Service on the west lawn of the United States Capitol Building.  The service, sponsored by the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police and the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary, was the 37th annual national service to honor and remember those law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice during the previous year, as well as the family members, friends and fellow officers they left behind.  Overall, 129 officers suffered line of duty deaths in 2017.  It is those heroes who were honored during today’s service, and whose names will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

The names of an additional 231 officers who died in previous years but whose stories of sacrifice had been lost to history until now will also be added to the memorial this year.  The names of all 360 fallen officers nationwide were formally dedicated during this year’s Annual Candlelight Vigil that was held this past Sunday evening on the National Mall.

Thankfully, there were no line of duty deaths here in D.C. during 2017.  But in the surrounding area, there were two deaths in Maryland:  Sean Matthew Suiter of the Baltimore City Police Department (End of Watch 11/16/2017), and; Sander Benjamin Cohen, of the Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshal (E.O.W. 12/08/2017).  And in Virginia, we lost four heroes:  Curtis Allen Bartlett, of the Carroll County Sherriff’s Office (E.O.W. 3/09/20170); Michael Timothy Walter, of the Virginia State Police (E.O.W. 5/27/2017), and; the two Virginia State Police troopers who were killed in a helicopter crash while monitoring the civil unrest that was occurring in Charlottesville, Virginia, during last summer’s “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally: Berke Morgan Matthew Bates and Henry John Cullen III (E.O.W. 8/12/2017).

 

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In addition too seeing and hearing the remarks offered by President Trump and Vice-President Pence, one of the highlights of the service for me was a performance by country music artists Branch and Dean of their song “The Dash.”

Prayer for Policemen

“O Almighty God, Whose great power and eternal Wisdom embraces the universe, Watch over all policemen and Law enforcement officers everywhere.  Protect them from harm In the performance of their duty To stop crime, robbery, Riots and violence.  We pray, help them keep our streets And homes safe, day and night.  We commend them to your loving care Because their duty is dangerous.  Grant them strength and courage In their daily assignments. Dear God, protect these brave men and women.  Grant them your almighty protection, Unite them safely with their families after Duty has ended.  Please God, grant us this wish.”

Matthew 5.9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Frelinghuysen University

If someone were to mention a university in northwest D.C. that was founded to serve African Americans, it’s likely that 99 or maybe even 100 out of every 100 people would think of Howard University.  But on this bike ride I visited the site of another, lesser-known university, named Frelinghuysen University, which beginning in 1921 was housed in a two-story residence located at 1800 Vermont Avenue (MAP), formerly known as the Edwin P. Goodwin House.

Frelinghuysen University was founded in 1906 when a group of local African-American educators and leaders met at the home of Jesse Lawson, a Howard University educated African-American attorney, educator, and sociologist, and his wife Rosetta C. Lawson, an advocate for temperance and low-income housing, to organize a branch of the Bible Educational Association, with Kelly Miller as president. They also established the Inter-Denominational Bible College, naming Jesse Lawson, as president.  Eleven years later the two groups were combined and renamed Frelinghuysen University, in honor of New Jersey Senator Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen, who had worked to promote civil rights during Reconstruction with Senator Charles Sumner, for whom The Sumner School, one of the earliest schools for African Americans in D.C., was named.

Frelinghuysen University provided academic programs, vocational training, social services and religious education for working-class African-American adults.  It was accredited and conferred degrees from 1927 until 1937.  But after losing its accreditation, and with the racially motivated laws increasingly limiting the future of the institution, in 1940 the school became the Frelinghuysen Group of Schools for Colored Working People, and Anna J. Cooper became its registrar.  The institution finally dissolved in the late 1950s.

The historic building eventually fell into disrepair until it was purchased by it’s current owners in 1992 for $90,000, and subsequently renovated back into a private residence.  The Queen Anne-style home follows a triangular plan with an octagonal corner tower, and includes such architectural features as corbelling, a patterned slate roof, and intricate iron finials.  It was designated by D.C. as an historic site, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in 1995.

      
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Astroturf Car

Artificial turf is common on athletic fields.  After all, that’s the purpose for which it was invented in in 1965 by Donald L. Elbert, James M. Faria, and Robert T. Wright.  It was originally called “ChemGrass,” but the name was later changed by a company employee named John A. Wortmann after its first well-publicized use at Houston’s Astrodome.

You don’t, however, usually see AstroTurf on a vehicle.  But during this bike ride in D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood I came across just such a car.  Now, I’ve seen lots of unusual vehicles throughout the city during my daily bike rides.  But this is the first time I’ve seen one like this.  And although I like it, I don’t think I’d want it to be my car.

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Observing Ascension Day at The Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes

Today is Ascension Day, a Christian celebration day commemorating Jesus’s ascension into heaven.  According to the Bible, Christ met several times with his disciples during the 40 days after his resurrection to instruct them on how to carry out his teachings. It is believed that on the 40th day he took them to the Mount of Olives, where they watched as he ascended to heaven.  Therefore, Ascension Day occurs ten days before Pentecost and is observed on the 40th day of Easter, which always falls on a Thursday.  However, some churches, particularly in the United States, celebrate it on the following Sunday.

In observance of Ascension Day, on this lunchtime bike ride I stopped by the Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes, located at 1215 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP) in the Downtown neighborhood of northwest D.C.

The origin of the Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes dates back to May 7, 1844, when several people who had previously attended services at nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square met to discuss establishing their own parish.  After approval from the diocese, the territory of St. John’s was split between the two churches, formally establishing the Church of the Ascension on March 1, 1845.

After the donation of land on H Street, between 9th and 10th streets, by Parishioner Martha Burnes Van Ness, a prominent local socialite and the wife of banker and future D.C. Mayor John Peter Van Ness, the cornerstone was laid for the church’s new home on September 5, 1844.  Construction of a the Gothic Revival brick building was complete enough to use by December 1844, and the first services were held on December 14th.

During the Civil War there were disagreements within the church. with some parishioners as well as clergy sympathizing with the Confederacy while others were Unionists.  After one such disagreement in which the parish’s bishop asked the church to pray and thank God for recent Union victories and the church’s rector refused, Washington’s Provost Marshall notified the church that the authorities would assume control of the church to prevent a disturbance.  The Church of the Ascension then became a military hospital to house casualties from the war, as did Church of the Epiphany, and Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown.

During the subsequent war years after their church was seized by the government, the parish was without a home. The problem was solved by member William Corcoran, a prominent banker and partner in the firm of Corcoran and Riggs, later known as Riggs Bank. Corcoran offered the use of a building he owned on H Street, between 13th and 14th Streets.  The congregation met there, and would not return to its permanent home until after the conclusion of the war more than three years later.

Within a short period of time after the congregations return to the church, the structure proved too small and not grand enough for what was now one of the most affluent areas of the city.  So after much debate, church leaders decided to erect a new structure. William Corcoran donated the site at the northwest corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 12th Street where the church continues to be located, as well as approximately half of the $205,000 construction costs.

The cornerstone for what is still the church’s current building was subsequently laid on June 9, 1874.  The building is constructed of white marble quarried near Cockeysville, Maryland, with accents of pink Ohio sandstone.  Designed in the Victorian Gothic style, it reaches a height of 74 feet with a 190-foot tower and spire that was visible across much of the city at the time it was built.

After World War I, membership at the Church of the Ascension began to decline, and in 1925 the congregation merged with nearby St. Stephen’s Church to help stabilize the parish.  This worked briefly until the onset of the Great Depression, when a downturn began that lasted through 1947, when the diocese considered selling the building to another congregation.  It was then that the Vestry received a proposal from St. Agnes Episcopal Church to merge.  It accepted and adopted its present name, under which its diverse, urban congregation continues as an active parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

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