15 Awe-Inspiring Memorials and Other Places to Honor Our Vets
Our country was founded through war, and millions of men and women have joined the U.S. armed forces since, some dying here or overseas to preserve the nation and its freedoms. People cross oceans to remember the fallen on the beaches of Normandy and The Ardennes, but there are plenty of places to pay tribute right here in America. Here are 15 awe-inspiring military sites to visit (all are free, except where noted).
The USS Arizona is a stirring monument for 1,102 of the 1,177 Marines and sailors who died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, launching the United States into World War II. It is also an active military cemetery, and many of the 334 survivors of the attack have had their ashes scattered over the Arizona. They are the only people whose remains are allowed to be interred there. The memorial, which straddles the hull of the sunken battleship, can be reached only by boat, for which 1,300 walk-up tickets are given away daily.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, known as the Wall, has been one of the most frequently visited military sites in the country since its installation in 1982. Joining it 11 years later was the Vietnam Women's Memorial, acknowledging the 265,000 women who volunteered to serve in the armed forces during the war. About 10,000 served in Vietnam, most as nurses. (Several have their names inscribed on the Wall, as they died alongside the men they cared for.) Most deployed immediately after graduation, making them the youngest crop of military medical personnel in American history, according to the Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation.
With 17 spires of aluminum, glass, and steel soaring 150 feet to form a steep, triangular loft, the Air Force's Cadet Chapel is actually home to four separate chapels -- for Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Buddhist ceremonies (with room for Muslims and others in an all-faiths room). Each is so enormous that different services can take place at the same time without interrupting each other. The structure, just north of Colorado Springs, cost $3.5 million to build.
The 330,000-square-foot American Armoured Foundation Tank and Ordnance War Memorial Museum facility in Danville contains artifacts dating to 1509, allowing visitors to experience the transition from horses to iron as tanks and other armored vehicles became enduring symbols of mechanized warfare. A visit costs $12 for adults, $10 for kids 12 or younger.
The first shot of the Civil War was fired April 12, 1861, when Confederate troops launched artillery at a Union garrison stationed at a partially completed installation called Fort Sumter. The fort, reduced to rubble during the war, was rebuilt and declared a national monument in 1966. Visiting the island fort by boat costs $21, or $13 for children. Nearby Fort Moultrie is $3 to visit, or free for children.