From the Civil War to the War on Terror — America’s history in global conflicts are memorialized on beaches, in cemeteries and in museums across the United States and around the world. For American Veterans, visiting these significant sites can be an especially sacred experience, as they understand more than any of us the sacrifices of the military members, service men and women these memorials honor. Every year on Veterans Day, the National Park Service offers free admission to all of its parks, historical parks, memorials and more — but any time of year is a good time to visit these top travel destinations for American Veterans to honor their brothers and sisters in uniform.
There are no veterans around from the Civil War, but any American serviceman or woman, historian or descendant of those who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg should make the pilgrimage to Pennsylvania. The battlefield and Gettysburg National Cemetery make up Gettysburg National Military Park, where Licensed Battlefield Guides walk you through the three-day battle that served as a major turning point in the Civil War. Stand where President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address or visit during the first week in July to witness the yearly Gettysburg reenactment. Visit Gettysburg with Road Scholar to learn about the Battles of Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry and Antietam from expert instructors all in one week.
American warships began visiting Pearl Harbor in the 1820s, but the lagoon became a household name on the infamous day in December 1941 when a surprise military strike by Japan on the naval base shocked the world and led to the United States’ entry into WWII. Today you can visit the active military base to pay homage to the victims of the attack at the USS Arizona Memorial and walk the deck of the last U.S. battleship, Mighty Mo, where the Japanese surrendered in 1945. Visit with Road Scholar to experience life aboard the USS Missouri by spending a night on the ship and taking part in a Pearl Harbor Day Commemoration Ceremony.
Perhaps one of the most patriotic cities in America, Boston has countless tales of military and Revolutionary history. Say hello to Old Ironsides as you walk aboard the USS Constitution — the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat. Climb the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown, stand on the site of the Boston Massacre and visit the many monuments and museums that commemorate the most important events of the American Revolution. You can also honor those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan at the Old North Church Memorial Garden.
Arlington National Cemetery looks out on the Potomac and the nation’s capital and is home to fallen soldiers from the Civil War to today. Around 25 burials are performed each day. Visit this sacred cemetery to pay tribute to veterans through the centuries, and venture across the river to Washington, D.C. to visit war memorials, from the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial commemorating Iwo Jima, to memorials honoring veterans from major American wars, every branch of the military, women in service, African American and Jewish soldiers and disabled veterans.
World War II Museums, monuments and cemeteries are scattered along the coast of Normandy for some 50 miles, and a visit to this coastal region of France is a must for any veteran or historian interested in learning more about the largest military operation in history: D-Day. Find out about the events that took place on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944 and how they led to the end of World War II. Pay your respects at the Normandy American Cemetery when you visit with Road Scholar, and lay flowers on the graves of the fallen at a special memorial ceremony.
Mount Rushmore may not be the site of a famous military battle or the final resting place of any veterans, but it is one of the most patriotic places in the United States. Visiting veterans should make it a priority to stay for the evening lighting ceremony (subject to weather and held from the Friday before Memorial Day through September 30th). An emotional saluting ceremony to American service members takes place during the lighting with the magnificent backdrop of Mount Rushmore.
The revered academies at Annapolis and West Point have educated and prepared thousands of American sailors and soldiers since the founding of these military academies in 1802 and 1845, respectively. Their significance for alumni and all Americans is reflected in their status as National Historic Landmarks. Walk the campuses of the United States Naval Academy and the United States Military Academy with an expert to find out how their graduates helped shape a nation. Visit with Road Scholar to see both campuses and witness a historic matchup on the football field during the annual Arm-Navy Football Game in Philadelphia.
Home to an active naval base since 1917, Norfolk abounds with military history. Visit the Virginia War Museum and walk aboard the battleship USS Wisconsin at Nauticus maritime museum. Learn about Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur at his memorial museum, and head over to nearby Virginia Beach to explore the Military Aviation Museum. Come to Norfolk in April for the Virginia International Tattoo to witness a festival of military music performed by over 800 military musicians. Get VIP seating at the Parade of Nations when you visit Norfolk with Road Scholar.
And then there’s Boston’s Revolutionary cousin — Philadelphia. Follow in the footsteps of George Washington as you learn about the American Revolution in this patriotic epicenter. Visit Valley Forge National Historical Park, Washington’s tactical headquarters and countless other battle sites and landmarks. Stop by the New Hall Military Museum or walk with a Colonial-clad historian to learn about the major events in Philadelphia’s Revolutionary history. And let liberty ring through you at Independence Hall. Philadelphia is the perfect learning destination for any American interested in the Union’s epic beginnings.
The events of September 11th 2001 resulted in the death of almost 3,000 Americans. Though they themselves were not military members, the attacks that day led to the War on Terror and the invasion of Afghanistan by American troops. Honor those lost on September 11th and all those who have fought in the resulting military missions at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum when you’re out and about in New York City. Veterans engaged by global relations may also be interested in an inside look at the UN Headquarters in New York with Road Scholar.
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