What makes these five sites so important for America's veterans

Five sites to visit to honor America's veterans

It's Veterans Day in the U.S. Today's the 103st anniversary of Germany signing the Armistice with the Allies, ending the “war to end all wars,” on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

Veterans Day gives each American the opportunity celebrate the service of all U.S. military veterans who served to ensure our nation’s safety and freedom.

As is my custom on both Veterans Day and Memorial Day, I'll make my way to Washington Square, Philadelphia, to the “Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier,” where an eternal flame burns in perpetual vigilance. On the memorial it says,

“Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness.”

I have five travel opportunities in the United States which are wonderful places to visit to learn about our veterans and celebrate their service to the nation.

Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknowns

The Arlington National Cemetery is the United States' most famous military cemetery. It was established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, once the home of Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee. The cemetery is the final resting place of many of the nation's veterans, among them two Presidents and four Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, beside the remains of hundreds of thousands of men and women who served the nation in the U.S. armed forces.

The Tomb of the Unknowns, a monument dedicated to American service members who have died without their remains being identified, is located there. The Tomb Guards, a special platoon of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, guard the Tomb 24/7. There is a moving “Changing of the Guard” ceremony conducted numerous times each day.

USS Arizona Memorial

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy…,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech began. The USS Arizona serves as the final resting place for many of the battleship’s 1177 crew members who lost their lives on that day at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Looking down at the Arizona from the Memorial floating above, oil can still be seen rising from its wreckage to the surface of the water. Some swear you can still smell the battle in that oil as you survey the harbor, where two battleships were lost, six others severely damaged, and more than 3200 men and women were killed or wounded.

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Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

During World War II, the US Army Air Corps was racially segregated. African Americans were subject to Jim Crow laws. The Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces, despite their patriotism and desire to fight for their country, were subjected to racial discrimination both outside and inside the Army.

Basic pilot training took place at Moton Field, which looks much the same today as it did in 1942, when it was completed. It was built with private funds provided by the Rosenwald Fund. During World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen, the Red Tails, as they were called by the other pilots because of the red painted tails on their planes, were among the most decorated fliers in the Army Air Corps.

Valley Forge National Historical Park

No battle was fought at Valley Forge, but the Continental Army encampment there was none the less instrumental in the eventual American victory over the British. Valley Forge, just 25 miles from the nation's first capital, Philadelphia, was the site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army, led by General George Washington. The sacrifice and perseverance of the men while training and drilling despite serious outbreaks of disease and food shortages through a Philadelphia area winter of freezing temperatures, snow and ice, brought honor to themselves during the birth of the U.S.

If you visit Valley Forge, especially on one of the cold, damp, overcast days of winter in the Philadelphia region, it’s easy to imagine the harsh conditions of the winter of 1777–78; the wind and snow swept fields, and men camped in cold, dank, log huts with barely a hint of daylight.

Gettysburg National Military Park

It's been more than 150 years since the U.S. Civil War's Battle of Gettysburg. The battle was a major turning point of the Civil War. The Union victory at Gettysburg ended General Robert E. Lee’s second and most ambitious invasion of the North in 1863. The battle was the war’s bloodiest, with more than 46,000 casualties, including almost 8,000 killed.

The eerily named Cemetery Ridge, Pickett’s Charge, and Little Round Top, were all added to America’s lexicon during the Battle of Gettysburg. Four months after the battle was ended, President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the Soldiers’ National Cemetery with his historic Gettysburg Address.

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When you walk the sprawling fields of Gettysburg (located approximately 140 miles west of Philadelphia) you can to begin to understand how the three bloodiest days of the Civil War unfolded.

At each historic location, you can learn about some of the most important events in American history, while honoring the veterans who fought for us throughout the life of the nation, permitting us to live in the freedom we enjoy today.

(Images: Top to bottom -- Hawaii - Pearl Harbor- Arizona Memorial Copyright © 2015 NSL Photography. All Rights Reserved.; Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser; Moton Field Copyright © 2019 NSL Photography. All Rights Reserved.; Gettysburg by Howard)