Journey to the Heroism Capital of the World - Make plans to Go in 2013

I recently visited Washington D.C.. Despite maddening freeways and excessive tolls I still beheld breathlessly the sight of the twin suspension bridges linking NJ to Delaware and caught myself staring adoringly more than once at the pristine cityscape of our nation's capital. It would have been only once if not for the roundabout way 95 intersects with a cluster of similar numerals that do not quite lead where one might want them to go... (Exhibit A)..

 

Regardless, I was surprised to learn while patrolling the National Mall (which is not a mall at ALL, but rather a grassy knoll that flirts with great American museums like The National Air and Space Museum and National Museum of the American Indian) that all of these historical destinations nestled in the heart of D.C. are entirely free to the public. FREE. All the Time and Open on Holidays.

National Mall and Memorial Parks (NAMA) contains more than 80 historic structures and over 150 major named historic parks, squares, circles and triangles. Park resources include the 2,000 American elms which line the Mall and the 3,000 internationally-renowned Japanese cherry trees which grace the Tidal Basin. (I have seen the cherry trees blossom in mid-late March; they are absolutely stunning!!!) Gardens that are botanical showplaces display thousands of tulips, pansies, and annuals in over 170 flower beds, and 35 ornamental pools and fountains range from the simple to the sublime. This impressive mingling of natural and cultural resources has made our Nation's Capital one of the more heavily visited and photographed places in the world. Start planning your next visit!

I was awestruck passing by the Smithsonian Castle on my way to the Washington Monument. But, my absolute favorite part of the trip was not the intrigue of the International Spy Museum or my predictable fascination with the highly interactive Newseum (I am now sporting the app that links me to 150 national front pages through my iPhone). And, while I did attempt to view the original Emancipation Proclamation on display at the National Archives -ultimately dismissing the idea due to indelibly long lines - it was none of these places that captivated me the way the strikingly handsome World War II Memorial did.

For obvious reasons WWII resonates vividly with me thanks to war stories my Grandfather shared. The war itself is a 3-dimensional snapshot in time thanks to those living memories and the (relatively) close proximity of the present to the tumultuous state of world affairs in the early 1940s. Knowing that the Hudson Valley recently launched an Honor Flight program in order to help send veterans of this great war to the Memorial (second trip is being planned for April 20th, 2013) .. I was not only proud, but also empowered by the foresight this well-headed committee had in organizing this important mission for great men (and women) who are dying at a rate of 1,000 a day. It is a small thing - while everything to them - to wish them the opportunity to view this memorial erected after-all in their honor before they are no longer able to do so. Kerry Butrick (media relations specialist for Newburgh Schools) recently sent me this wonderful Press Release which I will now share with all of you - a glimpse into how children are learning to Honor Our Troops and our veterans.

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Students from the Newburgh Enlarged City School District’s Temple Hill Academy recently participated in a letter writing activity for United States Veterans.  The school partnered with Applebee's in Newburgh, which delivered the thank you cards during an all-day event hosted at the restaurant to thank the veterans for their service.

Photo #1: Temple Hill Academy 7th and 8th grade students in Dayana Rivera and Silvana Paron’s classes.

Photo #2: Students in Fran Weller's 3rd grade class create cards for the veterans. You can Honor American Troops through a local Hudson Valley non-profit accessible online. Steve Nicoli has been sending care packages and letters to our service men and women overseas since 2004.

If you would like to adopt a soldier or if you know a soldier/troop that is deployed, please send him their info by putting "Adopt a Troop" as the subject and emailing Steve at: HonoringTroops@aol.com