I recently went on a school trip to Washington D.C. While there, we engaged in several activities throughout the capital, such as meeting with representatives and government agencies, engaging in a service project, visiting museums, and embarking on a night monuments tour.
During the night monuments tour, our first stop was the WWII memorial. If you've never been, it is truly beautiful, with a fountain in the middle, a wall with hundreds of stars each representing a thousand Americans we lost in the war, and surrounding pillars with states and territories engraved. There are also several signs clearly asking visitors to not wade in or throw coins in the fountain out of respect for those for whom the memorial was constructed.
I was appalled by how many people were breaking that rule. There were many little children who were wading in the water, which, while I wish their parents would have attempted to stop them, I can still understand. What I do not understand is the number of adults who were also wading or sticking their feet in the water.
What I do not understand is why there were so many coins riddled throughout the fountain's base. What I do not understand is the people of all ages who were running around and laughing and seemingly treating the whole monument as a joke.
What I do not understand is why there were so many people trying to take "artsy" pictures of themselves rather than stopping to respect those we've lost.
I am a pacifist, through and through; I do not believe in war and barely believe in military.
But at the same time, I have a massive amount of respect and admiration for people willing to risk their lives in the pursuit of protecting something greater than themselves. I am thankful we have people in this country who are willing to make sacrifices in war, even if I rarely agree with the war itself.
Truthfully, World War II was not that long ago. There are still people alive from that time. People who may have fought in the war and lost fellow soldiers whom that memorial was built to respect and acknowledge. Citizens who may have lost friends and family members in the war, whose fathers or brothers may be one of those more than 400,000 brave soldiers recognized in the wall of stars.
At a few of the pillars, there were wreaths or flowers left by a group out of respect, presumably for someone whom they'd lost in the war.
And many people at the memorial seemed to either have no idea or not care. There was such a wanton lack of respect amongst the people there, who must have thought they had just ventured upon some pretty fountain meant as a park for enjoyment, rather than a memorial meant for respect and remembrance.
If you ever get the chance to visit the World War II memorial, please treat it and those we lost with proper respect. Please do not denigrate the memory of those we lost and disrespect their families. There are plenty of beautiful spots in D.C. where one should feel free to flaunt about and be filled with nothing but joy; this shouldn't be a hard ask.