This blog post was updated on November 10, 2020.
Veterans Day may be a national holiday observed once a year, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t remember American vets year round! In honor of Veterans Day, we’re hopping around the nation to tell you about the destinations where you can celebrate those who’ve served their country. From museums, parks, memorial sites, and parades, these are places where you can honor, appreciate, and learn something new about veterans of the United States military. We know you can’t make all of these destinations in one weekend, so we’ve compiled a list of 8 different sites to choose from depending on where you want to go and how you like to travel.
Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum
If you’re interested in a “hands-on history lesson” then this is the place for you! An official regional site for the observance of Veterans Day, the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, is where you’ll find some pretty cool retired military vessels and aircrafts. It’s also home to the USS Yorktown Aircraft carrier, USS Laffey, and the USS Clamagore submarine, among other historical vessels and aircrafts. You’ll also find the Cold War Memorial, Medal of Honor museum, and a memorial for fallen war dogs. In honor of Veteran’s Day, Patriots Point offers free admission to all Vets during the holiday weekend and also hosts a number of events. It’s the perfect destination that welcomes all ages to honor and remember the nation’s heroes!
Gettysburg National Military Park
Visiting Gettysburg National Military Park allows you to stand on the battlegrounds, ride on horseback through trails, and tour the museum of where approximately 50,000 soldiers died during the historical Battle of Gettysburg, commonly considered the bloodiest of the Civil War between the Union and the Confederates. The National Park holds a Community Appreciation Day for Adams County residents on November 11 (Veterans Day), and all military vets who attend can enter for free.
Navajo Nation Veteran Memorial Park
Located in Window Rock, Arizona, this memorial park was built in 1995 by a group of Navajo Vietnam veterans, code talkers, and shamans to honor and remember the Navajo soldiers. Navajo soldiers were initially recruited by the Marines during World War II to assist with communication (“code talkers” were Marines who spoke the Navajo language, which was used as a secure code in the Pacific), beginning a tradition of service continued on my other Navajo members in following generations. As you arrive to the memorial you’ll see 16 steel pillars representing bayonets, a statue in remembrance of the code talkers of WWII, and you surely won’t miss the Window Rock, the natural rock formation that surrounds the park. Unfortunately, this memorial park is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
National Veterans Art Museum
With a focus on Vietnam, the National Veterans Art Museum located in Chicago inspires and gives a greater understanding of the impact of war. The entire museum is dedicated to artwork created by veterans. If you head to its 2nd floor you’ll notice 58,226 dog tags of men and women who died in the Vietnam War that gently dangle from the ceiling. It’s an inspiring and touching exhibit that honors all who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice to defend this country.
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The Liberty Memorial in Kansas City is the place you need to go to explore the impressive National World War I Museum. Considered the most comprehensive WWI collection in the nation, it features plenty of exhibits to learn everything you always wanted to know about the Great War. While you’re there, be sure to take note of the remarkable display of 9,000 poppy flowers that represents the 9 million soldiers who lost their lives in combat.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
A place of peace and remembrance of the fallen soldiers of Vietnam. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. consists of a shining black wall with close to 60,000 names engraved. Visitors are permitted to leave flowers, American flags, and other items along the wall to honor and remember those who’ve passed. You can find the memorial between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
Arlington National Cemetery
We saved the largest memorial for last. The Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place of over 400,000 military veterans and their immediate family members. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier sits at the top of the hill of Arlington National Cemetery. Above the grave of the WWI soldier is a beautiful white marble sarcophagus with inscriptions on the sides honoring the service of the unknown soldier. Arlington National Cemetery is America’s largest military cemetery and a pretty popular tourist destination, so don’t dismiss it if you have some cheap domestic flights to DC in mind. As long as you properly behave, it’s always worth the visit to pay your respects amidst these peaceful grounds.