Saturday, 24 August 2013

Washington - last day.

Our last day in Washington began early as we wanted to cram in as much as we could. Our first stop off the bus was Arlington National Cemetery which we had visited last time but deserved another look. We were really lucky to arrive on the day that the Secretary of Defence was also visiting so there were some extra ceremonies in his honour which we were able to see.
Firstly, we walked up a the steep hill past hundreds and hundreds of uniform white individual
headstones which in themselves are a very solemn reminder of the number of servicemen and women who are interred at the cemetery. We went to the eternal flame at JFK 's burial site where members of his family also now rest.
Then it was on to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for the changing of the guard, but before that, for the benefit of the distinguished guest there were three magnificent cannons set up and as we arrived they issued a ninteen gun salute. I can assure you that we were truly astounded at the noise and you could feel it as well. We both said how terrifying this must have been to the soldiers, especially as there were so many young soldiers to hear the cannons going off in anger as well as other artillery. 
The ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is very moving and complex in the precision with which it is delivered. The soldiers who are the guards there have to pass a very stringent set of criteria to achieve this honour and it is very highly sought after. We were told by a tour guide that the ceremony takes place in the same manner all day and night every day of the year and is never varied except for the frequency of the change during the summer.
Dring the terrorist strike on September 11 it continued and even during the earthquake and typhoon when the men were ordered to stand down. They refused this order and had to tie themselves down to remain safe. They are very dedicated to their job and perform it with great dignity. 
We also visited the memorial to the astronauts who died and the men who died trying to rescue the hostages in Iran. It certainly is an amazing place and as we left we saw a ceremonial horse being led for a funeral of which there are 30-40 each day.
Back on our bus and on to the Holocaust Museum where we intended to spend a couple of hours. We arrived at 1pm  in time for a 30 minute guided tour and then went on to the rest of the Museum ourselves. Before we knew it it was 5pm and we were too physically and mentally exhausted to do any more than get on to the bus and return to the hotel. I really can't describe the Museum except to say it was an experience we both shall never forget and one not to be missed. One of the most incredible history lessons we have ever had.

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