Washington D.C. is home to many memorials honoring the men and women who fought for our country and our freedoms. These memorials include the Marine Corps Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial), the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Women In Military Service For America Memorial, and the United States Navy Memorial, among others. Arlington National Cemetery, our nation’s most hallowed grounds, also honors these men and women who served our country in an exceptional manner.
When students visit these locations, they often stand in awe of the sheer size and grandeur of the memorials. Many recall information they learned in the classroom about the battles. Some, beaming with pride, share that they have family members who served or are currently serving in the military. It is these students who look at Washington D.C. differently. When they visit the memorials, they are thinking of their family and the stories they have been told. This connection adds meaning to their travels.
Connecting with local veterans prior to a class trip to Washington D.C. both honors these veterans and deepens the travel experience for the students. Travel is most meaningful when connections are made between personal experience and the new environment.
Before You Travel:
- Research Local Veterans: Ask the class if they have family members who have served or are currently serving in the military. Contact your local government to find the names of veterans in your area.
- Hear Veteran Stories: Invite local veterans to speak at your school or classroom about their experience. Knowing the stories of someone they have met in person will deepen their experience at the memorials in Washington D.C.
- Locate Names in Washington D.C.: Someone from your hometown or even a student family member may be remembered on the Vietnam Wall or be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Find their location prior to your trip through the Vietnam Wall name locator or Arlington National Cemetery gravesite locator.
- Say Thank You: Write a class thank you to local veterans or thank veterans with an e-card through the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
- [custom_frame_right][/custom_frame_right]Visit the Memorials: After hearing veteran stories, it is now time to visit the memorials in person. Inform your tour leader about any names you want to find or graves you would like to visit. They will do their best to work this in to your schedule.
- Thank Veterans in Washington D.C.: It is quite common to see veterans at the memorials in Washington D.C. Pay tribute to their service by thanking them as a class.
- Hold a Thank You Tribute: Students can hold a small tribute service at a memorial and read thank you letters they have written to veterans.
Have you visited the memorials in Washington D.C. with your students? In what ways have you made a personal connection? Comment below!