May 31, 2004
At the main gate of Quantico base is a slightly smaller replica of the monument depicting the second raising of the US flag at Iwo Jima, just like the one in Washington, DC.
But if you go west on the interstate exit, heading away from the base, you'll come to a turnoff for the National Cemetery. Neither as celebrated nor as large as Arlington, Quantico is nevertheless a beautiful and peaceful place. Naturally, being in the heart of Marine country, many of the monuments and markers are dedicated to the Corps. Unlike Arlington, most of the grave markers are horizontal, facing up to the sky, leaving long stretches of perfectly-maintained grass divided by gently curving roads. There are also many wooded areas, and some decent walking trails through the woods, complete with benches and 'reflection stops' that have been built and maintained by Eagle Scout candidates over the years.
It's far from a sterile place because that area of Virginia still maintains huge tracts of undeveloped land. Sit quietly for a while and you'll see multitudes of birds and squirrels, rabbits, deer and the occasional red fox. In fact, one of the problems the staff has is hunters coming onto the grounds at night and poaching deer.
Four times a year, Quantico National Cemetery dresses up. The Avenue of Flags is an impressive thing to see. Hundreds of donated veteran's flags are raised along the roads on Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Flag Day.
I went to Quantico National Cemetary early yesterday morning and spent a quiet hour walking around, taking pictures and talking to a few other folks who were there. I added my own silent thanks to those who've served this country that I love.
(pictures are in the extended entry, click the links to open in their own window for the bandwidth-impaired) This is the front entrance to Quantico National Cemetary. It's open every day of the year during daylight hours.
A young man originally conceived of and built this "Memorial Trail" as his Eagle Scout project. Over the years many markers and memorials have been added.
The beginning of the Memorial Trail
The very first marker on the trail
This one is particularly poignant today.
This overlook is dedicated to the First Marine Raider Battalion and their heroic battle at Guadalcanal. From this point on the trail, you can look out over a field of graves with markers like Arlington, another memorial to the US Marine 6th Division, and the Virginia Veterans Memorial.
We had the honor of attending the dedication of the Virginia Veterans Memorial some years ago, and the simplicity of the design is still striking. The only words are on this first panel, and inside the circle is a simple obelisk with an American flag draped over it, all done in stone. The stars and stripes are alternating areas of polished and plain stone. The monument is a study in grays, and the effect is powerful.
To close, some fitting words from a plaque on the 6th Marine Division memorial:
Happy Memorial Day.
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