Courtesy Destination D.C.
When was the last time your group visited Washington, D.C.? Have they walked the National Mall since the World War II Memorial opened in 2004? Have they gazed at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial that opened just this summer? Have they been there since the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in September?
The point is that no matter how recently you’ve been to Washington, there is probably a reason to go back. More so than maybe any other city in America, Washington is a place that inspires us to go and go again because it evolves as we do. Something new that reflects the latest piece of our history is always coming online in America’s majestic capital.
On the other hand, much of Washington’s appeal is as old as the nation itself and, in that sense, is timeless. Regardless of political differences, we are united in the idea that this American city remains a bastion for the ideals of our democracy.
Most of us agree that Washington’s revered institutions overshadow its parade of personalities. They stand as testaments to a country whose commitment to freedom remains intact after nearly 250 years.
As such, a visit to Washington often becomes a balancing act between enjoying things that are specific to an event in our history and those that are more ethereal in nature.
The recently opened memorial to King, the latest addition to the city’s collection of monuments, is an example of the former. And the visitation to that memorial thus far has been impressive.
“I can’t give exact numbers on the number of people visiting Dr. King’s memorial, but they are very strong,” said Robin McClain, director of communications for Destination DC. “I can tell you that someone from London was in my office just this morning who had just come from that memorial, and they told me it was absolutely packed.
“For people familiar with the National Mall area, Dr. King’s memorial is between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials on the northwest side of the tidal basin,” said McClain. “It’s a very easy walk from the World War II Memorial, for instance.
“And the World War II Memorial is absolutely special,” said McClain. “It’s very powerful. For many Americans who have not come to see it yet, it is still new, even though it opened in 2004. That site is intergenerational and is very moving.”
Rob Callahan of Bank Midwest in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, is a bank travel director who knows a bit about Washington. He and his associates have taken 10 groups of World War II veterans there as guests of HonorTour, a program they founded with the bank’s blessing to take aging veterans to see their memorial while they are still able to travel.
Mention Washington to Callahan, and his face lights up. He is a veteran himself, and his son is currently serving in the Marines. Remembering what the “greatest generation” did for this country and the world during World War II has become his passion.
“It’s a memorial they waited 60 years for,” said Callahan of the World War II Memorial, which stands opposite the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall.
“Many of our veterans say these trips have been the best of their lives and that they feel like a movie star while we’re there. For three days, they are constantly thanked everywhere they go by young and old alike,” said Callahan.