Reaching skyward from the Washington landscape is the U.S. Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va. With three huge curving steel spires, the memorial pays tribute to the 54,00 airmen who have died in combat while serving in the Air Force with a symbol of the bomb burst maneuver.
WHAT YOU SEE: The memorial is fairly simple but powerful. It’s impressive to see these large spires up close, the tallest being 270 feet. And because the memorial sits on a hill, the drama of the spires reaching the sky is even more intense.
On one end of the self-guided memorial grounds is a glass etching of the missing man formation, which is a formal salute to a fallen comrade. Both ends of the memorial have large marble walls with various quotes on military duty. For example, Gen. Curtis E. Lemay, the 5th chief of staff for the Air Force, said: “Saving the lives of your fellow airmen is the most extraordinary kind of heroism that I know.” The marble wall also lists the airmen Medal of Honor reciepients from World War I to the Vietnam War. On the other wall is a listing of Air Force combat campaigns and their years.
And you can’t miss the row of large bronze Air Force soldiers. Look closely at one of them and you’ll soon realize that they’re not all men.
The memorial site also offers a great view of the Washington landscape. If you walk through the spires to the farthest point, you’ll see the Pentagon directly in front. It’s impressive to see how large this building really is from this angle. Pentagon City (a shopping mall) and Crystal City (a large urban section of Arlington, Va.) are to the right. You also may catch a plane or two taking off and landing from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. And then to the left you’ll see the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol, and the Kennedy Center.
As you’re facing the memorial spires, there’s a visitor’s center to the left beyond the main memorial grounds with bathrooms and a small gift shop. Along one side of the building are three computer kiosks where you can search for Air Force heroes by name and learn the history of the service and flight. You can also pay tribute (for a fee) to an Air Force hero.
GOOD FOR KIDS: It’s good for kids because it’s in a beautiful setting and they’ll love looking up at the spires. There is some landscaping around the memorial grounds that restricts people from walking on the grass. So small children will have to be closely watched.
WHERE: One Air Force Memorial Drive, Arlington, Va. The memorial is along Columbia Pike near the Navy Annex and the Pentagon.
HOURS OF OPERATION: The memorial is open daily. From April 1 through September 30, the memorial is open 8 AM to 11 PM. From October 1 to March 31, the memorial is open 8 AM to 9 PM.
PARKING: There’s a large free parking lot across the street from the memorial. Be careful crossing Columbia Pike, a busy road at rush hour.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Metro’s Pentagon City station is the closest to the memorial but is still a half-mile walk. The Pentagon stop is a little over a half-mile.
WEBSITE/TELEPHONE NUMBER: http://www.airforcememorial.org/index.asp; 703-979-0674
SPECIAL EVENTS: The memorial holds several special events throughout the year, including Air Force band concerts and wreath-layings. Click here for a calendar of events planned for 2012.