I went on vacation last week to Washington, D.C. If you have any interest in American history at all, this is a perfect place to learn it first-hand. We stopped at Gettysburg the first day. I was shocked when I learned how many men died in just three days when the Union Army fought the Confederates at Gettysburg. 55,000 soldiers died; they said the blood in the fields ran ankle deep.
Next we went to the Smithsonian where we spent an entire day going through exhibits on the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, WWI and WWII, the Korean War and finally Vietnam. I was horrified as I thought about how many men and women died in those wars, and all those who were maimed or missing in action.
After the Smithsonian, we headed to Arlington where we saw the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We watched the changing of the guard and I was proud of the respect and honor shown for our fallen heroes there. I walked past the grave of John Kennedy and saw the eternal flame that burns there representing freedom. It is certainly awe inspiring!
Next we went to the Holocaust Museum; that was a different experience. It was learning how the German’s killed the children when they arrived at the camps, and seeing the hopelessness in the eyes of the Jews waiting in line to be marched to the gas chambers that did me in. It was here that I realized that all the horrors of war can’t stand up to the devastation in the souls of those we were defending. I decided then that war is a necessary evil. If we stand aside and let people be oppressed and say we can’t do anything because we aren’t the oppressors, then we’ve just become another part of the problem.
The final stop was at the United Flight 93 Memorial, a memorial in the making. It’s not finished, but it’s probably one of the most profound experiences of my life. United Flight 93 was the 4th plane high-jacked on 9/11 and crashed in the fields of Pennsylvania when the crew and passengers fought back. As I read through the story of these everyday men and women who decided to defend American at the cost of their lives, who brought down the plane they were on rather than allow it to be crashed into the U.S. Capital or the White House, I realized that at any time any of us can be called on to defend our country and our freedom. For all they say that America is hated by other countries for interfering in their activities, I must say it made me proud to be an American when I made this tour through history. Democracy may be one of the most dysfunctional forms of government in the world…but it’s better than anything else out there.