Historic sites to visit for Veterans Day

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Veterans are perhaps this country’s most forgotten minority group. With the exception of the parades and welcome they received following WWII, returning Korean vets were mostly ignored, those coming back from Vietnam were spat upon and there was a little bit of fan fare for those from the various Gulf actions.

A while back we passed a car with a bumper strip that said “If you can read this, thank a teacher.”  Perhaps it should have also included “If you are free to display this, thank a Vet.”

We have been fortunate in the United States that no enemy troops have set foot in our country (with the exception of some German prisoners and a handful of spies landed surreptitiously off the coast of Long Island in WWII) that, unlike Europe and the Pacific, we have no battle sites of that era to visit.

But Veterans Day offers an opportunity to pay homage to those who have served in all conflicts from 1776 to the present. Veterans Day is always on November 11 and may celebrate it at 11 a.m. The genesis for that is that at the end of WWI the armistice was signed at that time.  Therefore it is celebrated on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour.

For those seeking to pay homage there is one area in the country that has perhaps more such sites than anywhere else in the United States. Called “Hallowed Ground National Heritage,” the area is a 180 mile long, 75 mile wide swath of land reaching from Gettysburg in Pennsylvania to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.

There is a plethora of rich historic and patriotic sites from battlefields at Antietam, Manassas and Harper’s Ferry to national cemeteries at Gettysburg, Antietam and Culpepper.

Gettysburg is our oldest National Cemetery dedicated 149 years ago by Abraham Lincoln and the place where he delivered his famous short speech. Nearby is the home and farm of president and general Dwight D. Eisenhower. It was his retreat and a place where he met with powerful world leaders.  .

Near to the heart of journalists is the War Correspondent’s Memorial in Gathland State Park in Frederick, Maryland. The War Correspondent’s Arch, dedicated in 1896, is the only monument in the world for journalists killed in combat. It is in Crampton’s Gap where part of the battle of South Mountain, the first major encounter of the Civil War was fought in Maryland.

Heading south along Rt. 15 the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway passes Dodona Manor in Leesburg, Virginia.  Dodona was the home of Gen. George C. Marshall from 1941 until his death in 1959. Gen. Marshall was developer of the Marshall Plan that helped revitalize Europe following WWII.

Manassas is famed for the two Civil War battles fought there. Nearby is the National Museum of the Marine Corps. In the same area, at the Manassas Regional Airport, is the Freedom Museum honoring those who died in the defense of our country. It focuses on the 20th century. The museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian.

There will also be events commemorating the day. Gordonsville, Virginia hosts its Fifth Annual Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 10.  The Civil War Museum is located in the town at the Exchange Hotel.

James Monroe’s home at Ash Lawn-Highland holds a special commemoration with wreath laying, taps and ceremonies with the University of Virginia Air Force ROTC. Vets and their families are given free admission to the home all day.

These are only a handful of the sites available along the trail and throughout the Eastern Seaboard. Maps and suggested itineraries as well as other travel resources are available through www.hallowedground.org or by calling (540) 882-4929.