Last Thursday, my buddy Robert and I boarded a bus for a group tour of our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. We headed east with high expectations. We arrived home a week later with those expectations not only met, but exceeded more than we ever could have imagined. We gazed upon iconic structures while breathing in history firsthand, and we met countless wonderful individuals in the process.
Our D.C. tour guide, the legendary Mr. Map, told our group repeatedly that nothing in Washington is done haphazardly. The Lincoln Memorial has 36 columns, one for each state in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death. And the Air Force Memorial’s three spires have several meanings, including standing for three of four planes performing a Missing Man formation. So in keeping with intentional meaning, I’ve picked out my 21 favorite photos to symbolize the 21 total miles I walked on the trip. And that’s saying something, since these 21 photos were selected from a treasure trove of more than 1,400 images. Here they are with limited commentary – enjoy!
This is a photo someone left at the Air Force Memorial. While looking down at this in the light rain, it dawned on me that most of the guys in the photo have probably passed away, and one of them left this at the memorial in tribute to his fallen comrades.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial has a reputation for creating stunning imagery. Here, a woman from our group touches the wall with the Washington Monument towering over everything in the background.
This is an example of what would have happened if we had been disrespectful in D.C. But we were smarter than that and stayed out of trouble.
Standing in the street outside the White House was a surreal experience. Every president from Adams to Obama has called this place home.
Robert took this pic from where Martin Luther King stood when he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Perched high atop the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, you can imagine what it felt like for King to gaze out upon a sea of more than 250,000 people.
Here I am in front of the Iowa pillar at the World War II memorial. This was a main objective of the trip for me; I wanted to do this photo to honor my grandpa, who fought in Europe during WWII.
Here’s a wider photo of the World War II memorial. It’s a beautiful tribute to my grandpa and all of the other 16+ million Americans who served in the war.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial is a haunting sight, especially at night. You can see the fear and focus in the faces of the seven-foot-tall statues.
Here’s something you don’t see everyday: the ceiling of the Lincoln Memorial.
A ground-level view of markers in Arlington National Cemetery. The two World War II vets in the front row died two days apart in 1969.
Here’s a stunning close-up shot of the relief commander (left) inspecting the new sentinel’s rifle during the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.
Here’s Ford’s Theatre, where President Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. I popped into the lobby to buy a shot glass for my wife. Yes, I get the irony of buying a glass at Ford’s Theatre. SHOT
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may not be a flashy organization, but wow, look at their building.
Much like this migrant worker at the National Museum of American History, Robert understands the burden of lower back pain.
Standing on the National Mall with the Capitol in the background.
This was George Washington’s box pew at Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Would you ever skip worship on Sunday morning if you knew the Father of Our Country was sitting across the aisle?
If one pic describes the trip, this is it (that’s Washington’s Mount Vernon mansion in the background).
Here we are with the aforementioned Mr. Map, a homegrown D.C. guy who shows his love of his city by sharing his incredible wealth of knowledge with tour groups. One night, Mr. Map innocently asked us to name the best cut of bacon. Robert replied, “I just eat the whole pig and let God sort it out.”
Here’s Robert with Charlie the Tuna at Pittsburgh’s Heinz History Center.
This photo sums up the emotion you feel when you’re standing at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. As we walked along the wall, we met a line of men wearing white jackets. They were on an Honor Flight trip from Philadelphia. As we filed by them, many of us conveyed our simple thanks to them for their service. I can’t even describe what it felt like to look them in the eye as they walked past. Their anguish was visibly noticeable. It was obvious that many of them were bracing themselves for the hurt of seeing their buddies’ names on the wall. It was the most emotionally exhaustive situation I’ve ever encountered. These guys are heroes in every sense of the word.
Finally, here’s a pic of our tour group at Washington’s Mount Vernon (thanks to Jim & Marsha Reitzler for the photo). We had an awesome tour guide (Terry), an awesome D.C. guide (Mr. Map), an awesome bus driver (Captain Ron), and a phenomenal group of fellow travelers. When you meet up with a group of strangers, there’s inevitably a jerk or two… someone who just doesn’t fit with the rest of the group. But we didn’t have that. Everyone seemed to get along and everyone had a fun time. It was a week full of laughs and learning. Thanks to Woosley Tours for this unforgettable experience.