Trip to D.C. creates lifetime memories

Kim Brooks
Babbling Brooks Column
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     April 18-24 was one of the most memorable weeks of my life… I got to travel to Washington, D.C. with my mom.

     This was her very first time in our nation’s capital; I was there briefly in April 2011 with one of the Eastern Iowa Honor Flights. That trip, though it was a whirlwind, was my first time in D.C.

     My mom is a veteran; she served in the Army from 1974-78. I knew she would be amazed at the war memorials and monuments. One of the must-see items on her D.C. bucket list was the Women in Military Memorial/Museum, which is part of Arlington National Cemetery.

     Inside, there were displays commemorating every war and conflict, every military branch, and every era in which women were able to serve their country alongside the men. We saw the display for the Vietnam era, when my mom served, and the women’s uniforms inside resembled those that my mom still has of her own. Very cool to see!

     Our first day exploring D.C. included all of the monuments and memorials in and surrounding the National Mall: the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, walking along the reflecting pool, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, and the Women in Vietnam Memorial.

     We were able to locate the name of a young man who died in Vietnam, Tommy Antrim, who has a family friend of my mom’s side. He was 19 years old when he died in the war. Antrim served in the Marine Corps.

     Thursday was our private Capitol tour with a staff member of Sen. Joni Ernst. There were eight of us on the tour, all from Eastern Iowa. Compared to the group tours of up to 6 people, our small, intimate tour was amazing! Unfortunately, the week we were in D.C. just happened to be “spring break” for Congress, so we did not run into any of them. I was hoping to at least see Sen. Chuck Schumer or Elizabeth Warren.

     Every state has donated two statues of famous states-people to be displayed inside the Capitol. Iowa donated statues commemorating Samuel Jordan Kirkwood and Norman Borlaug. Kirkwood is a former Iowa Governor, U.S. Senator, and U.S. Secretary of Interior. Borlaug was an agronomist known worldwide for his initiatives that contributed to the growth of agricultural production.

     The statue of Ronald Reagan, donated by California, includes pieces of the Berlin Wall within the base of the statue. Pretty interesting.

     After the Capitol tour, we headed down the street to see the U.S. Supreme Court, Library of Congress and the Newseum.

     The Supreme Court building was probably my favorite piece of history to see that day due to the landmark court battles and cases that have come from inside the courtroom, from Roe vs. Wade to marriage equality.

     The Newseum was quite amazing as well, containing huge chunks of the Berlin Wall, 9/11 World Trade Center and Pentagon debris, and a wall from eye level to the ceiling of the front page of newspapers from around the globe sharing the news of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

     We spent all day Friday walking and walking and walking some more through Arlington Cemetery. On my bucket list were the Kennedy family gravestones: JFK, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, their baby Patrick, a still-born, unnamed daughter, Bobby Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, and Joe Jr. who died in WWII.

     We toured the Women in Military Museum, and took in the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

     It was so hot that day, but we ended with yet another walk from the cemetery to the Iwo Jima/Marine Corps Memorial. The size of that memorial is just indescribable.

     Saturday it rained all day that we took that as an opportunity to relax in College Park, Md., where we were staying. After all, this was a vacation.

     The science march took place near the Capitol that day, which would have been neat to see. But, the heavy rain won. We did get to see the 4-20 protests, though. 4-20 is code for pro-marijuana. Several people got arrested that afternoon.

     Our last full day in D.C. included the White House and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. So many neat artifacts and exhibits inside: Barbie Dolls, Ernie and Bert puppets, an Oscar, a Moon Man (MTV movie award), Julia Child’s Emmy and a full replica of her kitchen as seen on her TV show, the ruby red slippers Judy Garland wore in “The Wizard of Oz,” Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves from 1974, presidential inauguration memorabilia, the gowns worn by First Ladies at inaugural balls, the top hat President Lincoln wore the night he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater, and so much more!

     Due to the time it took to see what we did, there was not time for us to tour the Natural History Museum, Ford’s Theater, the Holocaust Museum (which, despite being free, requires timed tickets “purchased” in advance), and the Pentagon. I also would have spent another day or half a day exploring Arlington.

     My mom and I never had a bad encounter in D.C.; everyone we came across was sincerely nice.

     Advice for those first-time D.C. travelers, talk to friends/family who have been there before. I sought insight from two Monticello people who had recently been to D.C., asking about tackling the metro/subway, where to stay, and maneuvering around D.C. Their advice was invaluable for sure!


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