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Honoring Our Heroes: A Guide to U.S. War Veteran Memorials and Monuments

April 19, 2021 Plaques Resources

American culture embraces honoring and recognizing veterans, the wars they fought in, and their service contributions. Veterans make significant sacrifices to protect our country, and commemorative practices are a good method for recognizing those efforts. Some commemorations are large, formal, and nationally recognized while others are smaller and tucked away. There are a number of commemorative practices used today — some include:

  • Celebratory commemorative days such as Veterans Day and Memorial Day;
  • Man-made commemorative physical landmarks attract millions of visitors every year. These include:
    • Cemeteries/memorials/monuments: The American Battle Monuments Commission has created and maintained numerous cemeteries, memorials, and monuments located in the United States, and on foreign soil. There are 26 American military cemeteries and 31 federal memorials, monuments, and markers that recognize and honor veterans and their sacrifices.
    • Battlefield preservation areas: There are organizations like the American Battlefield Trust, that are dedicated to battlefield preservation. There are 188 battlefields in the U.S. from the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812. 
    • Museums: There are numerous military and war museums in the United States that are designed to offer knowledge and insight into the history of specific wars, and to honor the men and women who have served/are currently serving in the military.
  • Numerous monuments and memorials utilize memorial plaques or monument signs to commemorate and explain the significance of a particular individual or specific area.

    The History and Purpose of U.S. War Memorials

    On January 25, 1776, the first national memorial was ordered by Congress to commemorate Richard Montgomery — a Brigadier General killed during the Revolutionary War. War memorials are important because they often represent historical benchmarks that enable visitors/viewers to remember, understand, and acknowledge those affected by war. 

    Some may assume that war memorials are used to commemorate deaths or to recognize high-ranking military personnel, but war memorials take many forms. Some use war memorials as political reminders, some are created to simply point to important architectural heritage, and others use memorials to rewrite the narratives spread through history books. Every memorial is unique and the purpose behind the memorial should be unique to the war or conflict being commemorated. 

    Guide of Notable National War Memorials and Monuments

    As mentioned above, there are numerous ways that the U.S. has commemorated veterans. Below, you’ll find history and visitation information surrounding a variety of war memorials and monuments.

    The National Memorial Arch

    The U.S. National Memorial Arch, a war monument commemorating the arrival of Continental forces during the American Revolution.The U.S. National Memorial Arch is a historic monument located in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania within Valley Forge National Historical Park. This monument was created to commemorate General George Washington and the Continental Army for their arrival at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. The monument was designed by Paul Philippe Cret — a French-born architect from Philadelphia. The history of the National Memorial Arch is rather interesting because the way it looks now was not the original plan. The original monument plan was for two arches:

    1. One arch to commemorate General George Washington;
    2. The other arch to commemorate General Von Steuben.

    The two arches were proposed to act as the two entrances into the park. There were issues within the budget and as a result, the General Von Steuben arch and the General George Washington arch were combined to make one single arch that was later named the National Memorial Arch. The arch was inspired by the Arch of Titus in Rome which was created to mark the capture of Jerusalem. The arch itself is 60 feet tall and it contains several inscriptions — these include:

    • The front of the arch contains a large quote inscription from George Washington’s letter to Governor George Clinton. The quote reads as follows:
      • “Naked and starving as they are

        We cannot enough admire

        The incomparable Patience and Fidelity

        of the Soldiery.”

    • The arch itself is inscribed with a quote from a Henry Armitt Brown speech, it reads:
      • “And here in this place of sacrifice, in this vale of humiliation, in this valley of the shadow, of that death out of which, the life of America rose, regenerate and free, let us believe, with an abiding faith, that to them, union will seem as dear, and liberty as sweet, and progress as glorious, they were to our fathers, and are to you and me, and that the institutions, which have made us happy, preserved by the virtue of our children, shall bless, the remotest generation, to the time to come.”

    • The back of the arch is inscribed with the last names of every American general that was part of the Revolutionary War.

If you are interested in visiting this monument, you can find more information at the Valley Forge Visitor Center. The monument is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily and from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. during June and August months. The Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board recently launched a virtual tour platform that includes visits to the National Memorial Arch.

  • Address: 1000 First Avenue, Suite 101 King of Prussia, PA 19406;
  • Phone: (610) 834-1550;
  • Email: info@valleyforge.net.

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument honors George Washington for his military and political achievements and resembles an Ancient Egyptian obelisk.

The Washington Monument is a 555-foot marble, granite, and bluestone obelisk located in Washington, D.C. within the National Mall. At the time of its completion in 1884, it was the tallest building in the world. 

The history of the Washington Monument is long and complex. The original plan was started by Robert Mills — a South Carolina architect — in 1848, but there was a 23-year building halt (after 12 years of construction) due to lack of funding. After funding was settled, its construction began again in 1877 and it finished seven years later. Visitors can see exactly where the first phase of construction ended and where the second phase of construction began because of the color difference in the marble that was used. 

The monument was created to commemorate the vital military and political leadership of General and President George Washington. It was built in the shape of an Egyptian obelisk to represent the timelessness of ancient civilization and to recognize Washington’s timeless contributions. The Washington Monument has:

  • A statue of George Washington on the first floor;
  • An observation deck that provides north, south, east, and west views from the top floor;
  • A museum located just below the observation deck;
  • Interior walls lined with commemorative stones from different organizations that wanted to be involved with honoring the George Washington legacy;
  • Stairs that run from top to bottom, but there is no public access to the stairs, visitors must use the elevator. 

You can find basic information for visiting the Washington Monument on the National Park Service site. The monument is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day (except the 4th of July and Christmas), with the last tour starting at 4:00 p.m. You can reserve your tickets online. If you are unable to make it in person, there are virtual tours and photo galleries available online.

  • Address: 2 15th St. NW Washington, DC 20024; 
  • Phone: (202) 426-6841.

The African American Civil War Memorial Museum

A close-up photograph of a bronze statue at the African American Civil War Memorial Museum. The veteran monument depicts four African American soldiers standing at the ready with muskets.

The African American Civil War Memorial Museum is a commemorative museum located in the U Street district of Washington D.C. The museum opened its doors in 1999 and it moved to its permanent location in 2011. 

African Americans played large roles in the war, and the museum aims to provide insight into the overall history and contributions of the 209,145 members of United States Colored Troops (USCT). The building itself has historical importance as well. The museum is located within the Grimke Building — a building in the historic U Street District named after Archibald Grimke. Archibald was born a slave, then went on to become the second African American graduate from Harvard Law. 

The museum has many artifacts, documents, primary sources (staff and volunteers), and technology available to help tell the story of what the members of the USCT went through, who they were, their roles in ending slavery, and how they helped unite America through numerous periods. There are two primary purposes behind the museum:

  1. To acknowledge and provide information surrounding the USCT contributions that are ignored in the history books;
  2. To help with the economic revitalization of the U Street community due to the issues that rose from the 1968 riots. 

You must schedule a tour online to visit the African American Civil War Memorial Freedom Foundation and Museum. All tours are self-guided experiences and there are no virtual tours available. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. by appointment only. 

  • Address: 1925 Vermont Ave, NW Washington, DC 20001;
  • Phone: (202) 667-2667.

The National World War II Memorial

The National World War II Memorial at night. The area is well-lit, revealing a series of bronze plaques detailing various World War II veteran accounts.

The National World War II Memorial opened its doors in April of 2004 to honor the millions who served in the armed forces during WWII, the 400,000 who gave their lives, and the millions of individuals supporting war efforts from home. It is located in the National Mall in Washington, D.C. between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. 

The history and culture of the National WWII Memorial explain the significance behind the architecture. Twenty-four bronze panels tell the stories of different war experiences. 56 granite columns represent the U.S. states and U.S. territories that were developed during WWII. There is a wall of 4,048 gold stars to commemorate the ultimate sacrifice made by over 400,000 American soldiers. There are numerous quotes throughout the memorial and two 43-foot triumphal arches to remind visitors of the efforts that Americans — both soldiers and civilians — took to win the war.

You can find information about visiting the National World War II memorial online. The park is normally open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but for the time being, the memorial can be visited from 9:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. every day of the week. There are park rangers on duty 24/7 to help with visitation. 

  • Address: 1750 Independence Ave. SW Washington, DC 20024;
  • Phone: (202) 426-6841;
  • Email: national_mall@nps.gov.

The National D-Day Memorial

The National D-Day Memorial honors the allied forces involved in storming the French coastline on June 6, 1944. The war memorial is located in Bedford, Virginia.

The National D-Day Memorial is a national war memorial that honors the U.S. soldiers and allied forces involved in storming the French coastline: D-Day. It is located in Bedford, Virginia and it wasn’t completed until 50 years after the invasion.

There is a lot behind the history of the D-Day memorial. J. Robert Slaughter — a D-Day veteran — envisioned the memorial at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Bedford. The reason why they chose Bedford was because of the “Bedford Boys.” 34 soldiers were part of D-Day from Bedford and 17 died on D-Day. Bedford proportionally suffered the largest D-Day losses. 

The focal point of the memorial is the forty-foot arch that is inscribed with the word “Overlord” (the name given to the vital operation in Normandy). The arch overlooks the memorial pool that attempts to recreate storming the beaches. There are water fountains and bronze statues of soldiers throughout.

If you are interested in visiting the memorial, you can find visiting information online. The memorial is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You can purchase your tickets in person, or you can buy tickets online. If you are unable to make it to visit the memorial, you can take advantage of guided virtual tours.

  • Address: 3 Overlord Cir, Bedford, VA 24523;
  • Phone: (540) 586-3329.

USS Arizona Memorial/Pearl Harbor National Memorial

The USS Arizona Memorial contains a variety of plaques and other memorials preserving the attack on Pearl Harbor. Nine tourists are leaving the memorial.

The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is home to the USS Arizona Memorial, the Pearl Harbor Museum, and the Pearl Harbor Visit Center. It is located in Honolulu, Hawaii and it is only accessible by boat. It was both established and opened in May of 1962.

The purpose of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial was to preserve, interpret, and commemorate the 1941 attack on Oahu, and to honor the 1,102 sailors and 1,177 marines killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The memorial is a 184-foot structure with an intentional sag in the middle that represents initial defeat and the resilience that resulted in triumph. The USS Arizona was sunk in 1941 and the memorial was created overtop of the wreckage. You can see the entire ship from an aerial view, and if you visit, you can see different parts of the wreckage from the viewing deck.

You can find the basic information for visiting the Pearl Harbor memorial online. The memorial center is open seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. but in-person ticket sales have been discontinued, so you must reserve tickets online. If you are unable to make it in person, there are virtual tours and photo galleries available.

  • Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818;
  • Phone: (808) 422-3399;
  • Email: perl_info@nps.gov.

The United States Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial)

The United States Marine Corps War Memorial contains a 78-foot bronze-cast statue. The veteran monument is dedicated to the men who lost their lives during World War II.

The United States Marine Corps War Memorial is a commemoration of the men who lost their lives in Iwo Jima during WWII. The memorial is a part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway located in Arlington, Virginia. The memorial was unveiled in 1954 and the project was a joint effort between three men:

  1. Joe Rosenthal: The man responsible for the award-winning photograph of soldiers raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi;
  2. Felix W. de Weldon: The sculptor who created the bronze-cast statue of the soldiers raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi;
  3. Horace W. Peaslee: The architect who co-designed the entire memorial alongside Weldon.

The focal points of the memorial are the 78-foot bronze-cast statue and the parade ground that circles the statue. The statue is an exact match to the well-known photograph “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” and includes a 60-foot flagpole. The flag flies all day and night, year-round as required by presidential proclamation. The memorial has several gold letter inscriptions around the front and rear of the memorial that commemorates the date and location of every USMC action up to that time. 

You can learn more about visiting the Iwo Jima memorial online. The memorial is open Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. If you are unable to visit the parkway in person, you can find photos and multimedia presentations online.

  • Address: 700 George Washington Memorial Parkway, Mclean, VA 22101;
  • Phone: (703) 289-2500.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial

A part of the Korean War Veterans Memorial, this photo shows several large stainless steel statues depicting a U.S. squad on patrol.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial is located in Washington D.C. and it is part of the National Mall. The memorial honors all of the American soldiers that served during the Korean War. It was completed in 1986 and was opened in 1995 (the 42nd anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War). 

There are four primary aspects of the Korean War Veterans Memorial experience:

  1. The Mural Wall: The Mural Wall is made from 100 tons of granite that pictures images of land, sea, and air troops sandblasted into the granite. When the sun reflects off of the pool, it highlights 38 soldiers and 38 months (representing the 38th parallel between North and South Korea); 
  2. The Pool of Remembrance: The Pool of Remembrance is a shallow pool lined with granite and benches. The trees surrounding the pool are planted in a way that allows the sun to reflect from the pool onto the wall. The pool contains inscriptions of those killed, missing in action, prisoners of war, and those who were wounded circling the pool; 
  3. The Column: The Column is made up of 19 stainless steel statues. Each statue is over seven feet tall and weighs in at just under 1,000 lbs. The figures represent different armed service branches and the landscape was designed to look like rugged Korean terrain;
  4. The United Nations Curb: The United Nations Curb has an alphabetical listing of the different countries that contribute allied troops or medical support to the United States during the Korean War. It wraps around the memorial and it consists of 22 different countries inscribed into the curb.

If you are interested in visiting the Korean War Veterans Memorial, you can find the basic information for doing so online. The park is open to the public 24/7, 365. Rangers on duty to help with visitation from 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. If you are unable to visit in-person, you can look at photo galleries online

  • Address: 900 Ohio Drive SW, Washington, DC 20024;
  • Phone: (202) 426-6841;
  • Email: national_mall@nps.gov.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is a large granite wall engraved with the names of 58,318 Americans who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. The Washington Monument stands in the distant background.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is a war memorial made up of two 246-foot granite walls. It is located in Washington, D.C. and the memorial is in the Constitution Gardens (part of the National Mall). 

The wall is engraved with the names of 58,318 Americans who lost their lives in the Vietnam War and the idea for the memorial design was created by an architect named Maya Lin. Aside from the granite memorial wall, there are three other memorials included inside of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial — these include:

  • The Three Servicemen statue: There were a number of different races involved in the Vietnam war and the bronze statue attempts to commemorate this. The statue pictures three soldiers: one of European American descent, one of African American descent, and one of Hispanic American descent;
  • The Vietnam Women’s Memorial: Women helped out in many ways during the Vietnam War. This memorial was created to honor their numerous war efforts. The bronze statue pictures three women taking care of a soldier during the war. It is located south of the memorial wall;
  • In Memory plaque: Thousands of veterans have died every year from exposure to agent orange, PTSD/suicide, and other causes that correlate with their time spent in service. This plaque is meant to honor those individuals. The “In Memory” plaque inscription reads:

    “In memory of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and later died as a result of their service. We honor and remember their sacrifice.”

You can find all of the basic visitation info for the Vietnam Veterans memorials online. The park is open to the public 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Rangers are on-site every day from 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. to assist with public visitation. If you are unable to attend in-person, there is a virtual wall and a virtual tour of the entire memorial available.

  • Address: 5 Henry Bacon Dr NW, Washington, DC 20245;
  • Phone: (202) 426-6841;
  • Email: national_mall@nps.gov.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Arlington National Cemetery

A photograph of the Arlington National Cemetery in which hundreds of headstones are visible.These memorialize soldiers who died while on active duty and retired members of the Armed Forces.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is one of the memorials inside of the Arlington National Cemetery in Fort Meyer, Virginia. This monument honors (and is the final resting place) for “unknowns” — casualties of war that remained unidentified. The memorial is meant to act as a place of mourning and reflection. The architect responsible for the memorial is named Thomas Hastings, and he strategically placed the white marble sarcophagus on the top of a hill overlooking Washington D.C. “Unknowns” were added in 1921, 1958, and 1984.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has a unique ceremony named the Changing of the Guard. The tomb itself is guarded 24 hours a day by soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. From October 1st to March 31st, the guards change every hour, and from April 1st to September 30th, the guards change every half hour. It is an extremely powerful display of respect and admiration and spectators are asked to remain completely silent during it.

You can find Arlington Cemetery visitation information online. The monument is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. There is an interactive virtual tour of Arlington available for those interested in remotely visiting the monument.    

  • Address: 1 Wilson Ave, Fort Meyer, VA 22211;
  • Phone: (877) 907-8585.

The National Cemetery System for Veterans

The national cemetery system was created after the U.S. Civil War in July of 1862. It was meant to provide a prestigious burial ground for those who were killed during the civil war, but it expanded beyond that over time. 

The National Cemetery Administration (NCA), the National Park Service (NPS), and the Department of Defense (DOD) are responsible for maintaining 171 national cemeteries. The NCA maintains 155 cemeteries, the NPS maintains 14 national cemeteries, and the DOD maintains two national cemeteries. There are a number of eligibility requirements for burial in a VA national cemetery — veterans, service members, spouses, and dependents may be eligible if a family member meets one of the following requirements:

  • “A veteran who didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge;
  • A service member who died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty for training;
  • The spouse or minor child of a veteran, even if the veteran died first;
  • In some cases, the unmarried adult dependent child of a veteran.”

There are several VA cemetery burial benefits:

  • A gravesite in any of the national VA cemeteries across the country;
  • The official opening and closing of a grave;
  • A government headstone, marker, and medallion;
  • A burial flag;
  • A Presidential Memorial Certificate;
  • Potential burial allowances;
  • A grave liner;
  • Ongoing gravesite care/maintenance.  

The National Cemetery System directly correlates with memorializing and honoring members of the military community. They use dedicated areas that include beautiful landscape, statues, veteran and military plaques, military insignia, quotes, historical facts, and various other commemorative information to honor fallen veterans and their family members. 

If you are interested in visiting a specific gravesite, the NCA offers an online nationwide gravesite locator database that hosts all VA burial information, and it is updated daily. 

Notable War Museums, Battlefields, and Military Parks

In addition to war memorials, monuments, and VA cemeteries, there are also notable war museums, preserved battlefields, and military parks that are used to honor U.S. veterans. These areas also create a unique opportunity to educate civilians on specific war stories, people, and places. Below are a few examples of notable war museums, battlefields, and military parks with visitation and historical information surrounding each respective area. 

National World War I Museum

The National World War I museum has a variety of U.S. veteran memorials and monuments honoring the sacrifice of military personnel during WWI.

The World War I Museum is located in Kansas City Missouri. It was inspired by Egyptian Revival architecture, and the original architect responsible for the building was named Harold Van Buren Magonigle.

The history of the World War I memorial and museum is a long one because there were a restoration and expansion project, as well as multiple memorial/museum names. After the war ended, the Liberty Memorial Association (LMA) was founded to develop a monument that would commemorate all of the different men and women that served in WWI. 

The Liberty Memorial Museum opened in 1926 and shut down in 1994 because of various safety concerns. Kansas City residents paid an additional tax for a limited time to pay for a new memorial/museum that opened in 2006 — it was named the nation’s official World War I Memorial Museum.

If you are interested in visiting the National WWI Museum and Memorial, you need to buy your tickets online. There are also numerous WWI exhibitions that you can explore virtually on their site if you are unable to make it to see the museum at home, or you are just interested in learning more. The museum’s regular operating hours are Tuesday through Monday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and their summer hours also include Mondays. 

  • Address: 2 Memorial Drive, Kansas City, MO 64108;
  • Phone: (816) 888-8100;
  • Email: info@theworldwar.org.

National Civil War Museum

The National Civil War Museum preserves the story of the American Civil War through memorials and galleries of artifacts, photographs, and documents from the era.

The National Civil War Museum is dedicated to providing the entire story behind the American Civil War to highlight biased narratives associated with Union and Confederate causes. The museum is located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania within Reservoir Park. 

The tours are self-guided and the museum staff recommends that you set aside two full hours to get the entire experience (17 galleries, the theatre, and the “Walk of Valor”). There are over 24,000 artifacts, photographs, documents, manuscripts from the Civil War era on display. 

You can purchase tickets for the National Civil War Museum online. You can choose to visit the museum Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The museum is closed Tuesday and Wednesday. 

  • Address: 1 Lincoln Cir, Harrisburg, PA 17103;
  • Phone: (717) 260-1861.

National World War II Museum

The World War II museum, with several visitors standing outside. The museum offers immersive exhibits and preserves the story of WWII while honoring those lost during the events.

The National World War II Museum — formerly named the National D-Day Museum — is a commemorative collection of WWII artifacts and information that is located in New Orleans, Louisiana. The D-Day Museum opened in 2000, then in 2003 it was renamed and reopened as the National WWII Museum. Their mission is stated as follows:

“The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.”

The WWII museum offers immersive exhibits, multimedia experiences, a massive collection of artifacts, and numerous first-person story-telling. There are permanent and rotating exhibits for visitors to explore and the museum staff recommends that you set aside two or three hours to get through it all. 

If you are interested in visiting the WWII museum, you can attend in-person from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. any day of the week. If you are unable to attend in-person, you can explore the exhibits virtually on the museum website. 

  • Address: 945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130;
  • Phone: (504) 528-1944;
  • Email: info@nationalww2museum.org. 

National Museum of the Army

An etched stainless steel plaque at the National Museum of the Army displaying quotes and information reflecting on the definition and legacy of sacrifice, as it pertains to U.S. veterans and those who are lost in times of war.

The National Museum of the United States Army is a museum located in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C. It was opened in November of 2020 with this vision:

“The National Museum of the United States Army preserves and honors the accomplishments, sacrifices and commitment of American Soldiers. As America’s Army Museum we are home to all Soldiers: past, present and future.”

The facility itself is 185,000 square feet and offers a number of army exhibits that you can visit in-person or virtually. The exhibit features a series of etched stainless steel plaques, each of which delve into the history of the loyalty and sacrifice given by American soldiers. The large space was created to accommodate several events including:

  • Ceremonies;
  • Reenactments;
  • Lectures;
  • Military reunions;
  • Educational programs/tours.
A close-up of another etched stainless steel plaque at the National Museum of the Army. This memorial displays detailed etchings of Army medals from 1862, 1896, and 1904.

If you are interested in visiting the museum, you must take advantage of the different virtual public programs offered by the museum. Pay attention to the visitation page for any updates.

  • Address: 1775 Liberty Dr, Fort Belvoir, VA 22060;
  • Phone: (800) 506-2672;
  • Email: customerservice@armyhistory.org.

Antietam National Battlefield

A photo of the Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland. This site contains a variety of monuments and memorials dedicated to the soldiers killed, wounded, or who went missing during action.

The Antietam National Battlefield is the area protected by the NSP that is located along Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg, Maryland. This battlefield is home to one of the bloodiest war days in American history: the Battle of Antietam. The Battle of Antietam lasted 12 hours and 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or confirmed missing in action. There are four primary places to visit or observe within the battlefield:

  1. The Key to the Battlefield;
  2. Antietam National Cemetery;
  3. Antietam Monuments;
  4. Dunker Church. 

The park is open every day of the year besides major holidays. If you are unable to visit the battlefield in person, there are numerous virtual tours on the NPS website

  • Address: 302 E Main St, Sharpsburg, MD 21782;
  • Phone: (301) 432-5124.

Gettysburg National Military Park

Gettysburg National Military Park marks the turning point in the civil war: the Union victory that ended Robert E. Lee’s charge towards the North. This was the battle that inspired President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The park itself is located within Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and there are four primary places to visit within the park:

  • Museum and visitor center;
  • Gettysburg National Cemetery;
  • David Wills house;
  • Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station.

You can find the information for planning a visit to Gettysburg online. The park is open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. April 1st through October 31st and from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. November 1st through March 31st. There are numerous virtual tours available on the park site.

  • Address: 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA 17325;
  • Phone: (717) 334-1124.

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park commemorates four major battles throughout the American Civil War:

  1. The Battle of Fredericksburg;
  2. The Battle of Chancellorsville;
  3. The Battle of Wilderness;
  4. The Battle of Spotsylvania.

These places offer a unique view and commemorate the tragic cost behind the Civil War. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, located in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, consists of:

  • Historic structures: Chatham Manner and the “Stonewall” Jackson Death site.
  • Soldier cemeteries: The Fredericksburg National Cemetery and two confederate cemeteries.
  • Multiple battlefield sites: The four listed above, plus numerous lesser-known local battlefields.

You can find information about visiting Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania online. The operating hours vary by season and building, so it is important to check their site for any updates. If you are unable to make the trip in-person, you can take advantage of numerous virtual tours

  • Address: 120 Chatham Ln, Fredericksburg, VA 22405;
  • Phone: (540) 693-3200.

Ways to Honor Veterans in Your Community

Visiting, observing, and honoring veteran spaces listed above is a great way to honor veterans from the Army, Navy, Maines, Air Force, and Coast Guard — but they are not the only way. Below is a list of additional ways to honor veterans in your community.

  • Fundraising: You can fundraise for many reasons: raising money for a specific project like funding a veteran/military plaque memorial, raising money for a specific veteran in need, or simply donating to a veteran organization, for example.
  • Create your own memorial: Memorials don’t need to be large-scale, multi-acre areas with large monuments. Further, they can honor specific local veterans or veterans in the community in general. Individuals or community leaders can dedicate a park bench or create a memorial plaque within a public space (e.g. business/organization, public park, etc.) to honor veterans. If you are a business owner, you can dedicate your building, or a specific room using a dedication plaque. Creating a memorial can help get a location or structure added to the National Register.
  • Volunteering: Look for any way to volunteer for veterans, including providing transportation, organizing events, preparing/serving meals, among other ways.
  • Lay wreaths or flowers at cemeteries: You can locate national and state veteran cemeteries online. Honor fallen servicemen and women by bringing wreaths or flowers to their grave site or at walls of honor:
An example of a wall of honor, this close-up photo of a cast bronze plaque shows that it is dedicated to Lyndon State College Faculty in Lyndon, Vermont.
  • Attending local parades: Many places in the U.S. host local Veteran’s Day parades. Attend these parades and make it a point to thank and honor the veterans you may come in contact with.
  • Donations: Donate money to an organization of your choice. There are numerous nonprofits dedicated to providing services to veterans and military service members that you can choose from.
  • Writing letters: Write a thank you letter to active-duty troops. Let them know you are thinking about them and that you are thankful for their service.
  • Visiting VA hospitals: There are hundreds of VA medical centers in the U.S. Simply call the hospital and ask if you can visit and talk with some of the veterans.
  • Offering military discounts: If you are a business owner, offer military discounts within your organization. If you work in a place that doesn’t offer military discounts, politely ask to talk to your manager or the business owner about different possibilities.
  • Supporting veteran-owned businesses: There are millions of veteran entrepreneurs in the United States. Seek these businesses out using a veteran-owned business directory and support them in any way that you can (e.g. purchasing, sharing their website/social page, donating, etc.).
  • Share stories: If you have the privilege of listening to a loved one talk about war stories, pass those stories on. Tell your friends, children/future children, and encourage them to share their stories as well.
  • Offer thanks: If you see an individual clad in uniform or wearing veteran apparel, offer your gratitude for their service. This takes very little effort, but it can make a veteran’s day.

How Local Communities/Governments Can Honor Active Military & Veterans

In addition to taking action as an individual, local communities and municipal governments can pool their efforts to make a statement in solidarity with our nation’s active military and veterans. This usually involves a concerted effort to enact some of the above methods on a larger basis, such as collecting donations from members of the community. 

Perhaps one of the most effective ways of demonstrating a community’s commitment to our troops is creating a memorial in a high-visibility area of significance to the community, such as a local park or school. 

These tributes can be focused on honoring specific individuals or local veterans in general, and they can either be built in an area of historical significance related to specific military events or placed in the local community. 

For instance, Konetzni Hall — a U.S. Navy headquarters building in Guam named for veteran Vice Adm. Albert H. Konetzni, Jr. — has chosen to memorialize Konetzni through a bronze military bas relief plaque:

A bas relief cast bronze plaque in honor of U.S. Navy veteran Vice Admiral Albert H. Konetzni, Jr. A likeness of the Vice Admiral is present on the plaque.

As another example, Impact Signs was commissioned to create a cast bronze Veteran’s Day memorial plaque for Morton West High School in Berwyn, Illinois to honor local Army, Marine, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard veterans:

A cast bronze Veteran's Day memorial plaque located at Morton West High School in Berwyn, Illinois. It shows the seals of the Army, Marine, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

A more general example of a memorial is a military seal, such as the one pictured here:

An example of a bas relief cast bronze plaque. This plaque memorializes the Continental Army of 1775.

These are more often more general in nature and are intended to show honor and support of active military members in veterans. Each of these examples demonstrate how local communities and governments can choose to honor our veterans through memorials.

Showing respect for our veterans is a foundational aspect of American culture, and it’s important that we find ways to thoughtfully honor their contributions. Following through on some of the above commemorative practices is an excellent way of honoring our veterans in a manner that is personal to you while also making a positive impact on your community.

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