From the haunted expressions on the faces of the soldiers marching through the jungle at the Korean War Veterans Memorial to the 57,939 faceless names chiseled into the long black polished granite wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, America’s capital city is home to many moving tributes to American soldiers.
The brave men and women who gave their lives fighting for the United States came from across the nation. And while there are many monuments and memorials in our nation's capital that honor their service, there are other moving veterans memorials outside of Washington, D.C. Here are just a few of them.
1. National Memorial Arch, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
If you think the National Memorial Arch looks a bit like America’s version of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, you’re right. However, the Romans (and not the French) were the first to construct elaborate arches honoring military leaders and heads of state for their capstone victories.
Located at the intersection of Outerline Drive and Gulph Road near the southeastern entrance of Valley Forge National Historical Park, this 60-foot-tall stone arch recalls General George Washington’s arrival at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. The exhausted ragtag group of 12,000 volunteer soldiers established an encampment where they hunkered down for six months between December 1777 and June 1778. The time they spent at Valley Forge was significant because it allowed the colonists to unify; despite the hardships the men endured that winter, they would go on to win the battle for independence in 1783.
There is no fee to enter Valley Forge National Historical Park and visit the National Memorial Arch.
2. The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas
Barricaded in a beautiful 18th-century Spanish mission-turned-fortress, a group of a few hundred men fought valiantly to the death against a Mexican army of thousands. And while the Texans lost the battle, it was a significant turning point in their war for independence.
In response to the loss of Texan lives at the Alamo, General Sam Houston rallied the remaining Texan troops. The reinvigorated Texans -- with the battle cry “Remember the Alamo!” -- gained their independence from Mexico a few weeks after the devastating loss in San Antonio.
3. Soldiers And Sailors Monument, Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis, Indiana, honors America’s veterans in a big way. In fact, no other city dedicates as much acreage to war memorials as Indianapolis, and the city is second only to Washington, D.C., in terms of monuments. One of the best known of the city's veterans memorials is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
Rising nearly 300 feet from the center of Monument Circle and topped by a bronze statue of Victory, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument is just a short walk down Market Street from the Indiana Statehouse. The limestone obelisk was constructed to honor Indianans who served in the Civil War, and visitors can ascend to the top for a panoramic view of Indy.
There is no fee to visit the monument or climb the 331 stairs to the top, but there is a small fee to take the elevator.
4. Liberty Memorial, Kansas City, Missouri
In the aftermath of the devastating war that raged around the world from 1914 to 1918, a group of Kansas Citians raised $2.5 million in just 10 days to design and construct the Liberty Memorial. (That’s the equivalent of about $38 million today.) Built on a hill across a grassy expanse from Union Station, the memorial includes a nearly 150-foot frieze wall that depicts people slowly moving from the terror and heartbreak of war to the promise of peace.
There is no cost to visit the memorial. For a small fee, visitors can ride an elevator to the top of the tower, where an open-air observation deck provides spectacular views of downtown Kansas City.
While the Liberty Memorial has honored the fallen of World War I since 1926, the nation’s only museum dedicated to World War I opened in 2006. Be sure to check it out after your visit to the Liberty Memorial.
5. USS Arizona Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii
On December 7, 1941, a swarm of single-engine dive bombers dotted with the red rising sun emblem of the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack on the Pearl Harbor naval base in Honolulu, Hawaii. In just 90 minutes, a sleepy Sunday morning on a sunny tropical day on the island was transformed into a smoldering scene of death and destruction. Among the more than 2,450 Americans killed were 1,177 aboard the USS Arizona.
The USS Arizona Memorial is a white bridge that floats perpendicular to the fallen ship; together, the memorial and the ship resemble a cross when viewed from above. Because the majority of men aboard the USS Arizona could not be recovered, they are buried at sea in the battleship.
There is no fee to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, but a visit does require some planning. The memorial can only be accessed by boat from the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, and a timed ticket is required to board the boat. While walk-in tickets are distributed daily, they go fast, especially during peak travel season.
I highly recommend reserving your free timed ticket to the USS Arizona Memorial in advance for a convenience fee of $1 per ticket. The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is located on the southern end of the island of Oahu and is open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
6. Veterans Memorial Park, Las Cruces, New Mexico
Located along Roadrunner Parkway in the southern New Mexico town of Las Cruces, Veterans Memorial Park honors veterans from all American wars, from the American Revolution to the War in Afghanistan.
A walking trail winding through the park leads visitors to memorials dedicated to specific wars. The Bataan Death March Memorial, which depicts three weary bronze soldiers supporting each other, was designed by local artist Kelley Hestir based on firsthand stories from survivors of the grueling march. The Vietnam War Memorial features a Huey helicopter suspended over a banner that reads “Heroes Never Thanked.”
Besides the Women In Military Service For America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., there are very few veterans memorials honoring women. At Veterans Memorial Park in Las Cruces, however, the Women Veterans Monument features life-size bronze statues representing women in all six branches of the military.
Admission to the park is free.