Diep is 65 years old and has only lived in the United States for about six months. In her homeland of Vietnam she taught English. She now works six days a week at Sears so she has no time for sightseeing.
Last Wednesday I asked Diep if she was ready for an “outing.” So we saw some sights in Washington D.C.
We did share a lot of American history in a very emotional way and also in deep discussion. A teacher and student of history, Diep was very knowledgable.
We stood before the White House and discussed presidents and great event, at the Washington Monument we talked about the Revolution and the Founders. We walked through the war memorials, World War II, Korea mand all the names of those Americans lost in Vietnam. At the Lincoln Memorial we talked about the end of slavery and the start of a new life for so man; and the preservation of the Union. But there were a few stops that touched the deepest.
Arlington National Cemetery
We started our day, I thought day appropriately at the National Cemetery. We started at the end for so many fine Americans. The eternal end.
The entrance to Arlington features a kind of museum that we walked through solemnly.
There is a huge photograph of President John F. Kennedy’s funeral and I told Diep I could still recall the drums on that historic day. My eyes welled with tears so we ventured outside.
Diep marveled at the gravesite of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, our thirty-fifth President of the United States (1961-1963) who was tragically struck down by a sniper’s bullet.
His Inaugural Address offered the memorable injunction: “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”
Some of the greatest quotes from President Kennedy’s speeches are engraved in the granite wall surrounding the gravesite.
I reminded Diep that I was a Naval Officer like the young John Kennedy but never in a position to achieve his honor and heroism as Commander of PT-109.
She looked with wonder upon the grave of Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of President John F. Kennedy. Also buried there are two young children, Arabella, stillborn in 1956 and Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, who was born in the summer of 1963 and only lived two days.
We walked from President Kennedy’s grave past the grave of Robert Kennedy and toward the tomb of the unknown soldiers.
Along this path one can see the graves of many famous Americans. I pointed out one of my favorites to Diep: Peter M. Boehm enlisted as a bugler in the 2nd US Cavalry in 1858.
Peter M. Boehm, Second Lieutenant, Company K, 15th New York Cavalry, Aide and Bugler to General George Armstrong Custer. Boehm was awarded the Medal of Honor for capturing Confederate colors at Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, on 31 March 1865.
Second Lieutenant Boehm also served in the “Indian Wars” but he was not with General Custer at the Little Big Horn.
He died peacefully on June 4, 1914 and was buried in Section 2 of Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, Ada Boehm, is buried with him.
We also visited old friends including Mrs. Margaret Meyer, wife of “The Father of AEGIS,” Rear Admiral Wayne Meyer, U.S. Navy.
We stopped by to visit with many old friends including Colonel Vance Hobert Hudgins, U.S. Marine Corps.
At the Tomb of the Unknowns I told Diep that the sentry marched exactly 21 steps. Like the 21 gun salute, the 21 steps indicates honor. She counted the sentry’s steps with delight after that.
As we silently walked back to the enryway to Arlington, we saw a burial service in progress, complete with honor guard, gun salue, and a marching band. We stopped in silence to pay our respects. Undoutedly, from the age of the grieving wife, this was the funeral of a Soldier or Marine killed in Combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. Diep started to pray and I joined in with a whisper.
Arlington is the place of symbolism and significance.
We drove past the U.S. Marine Corps Iwo Jima Memorial into Rosslyn then across the Potomac River into Georgetown.
Georgetown is home to plenty of trendy restaurants, salons and shops.
We stopped at a Salon & Spa: where the rich and famous get facials, permanents, pedicures and the like. WOW! We couldn’t have afforded the simplest procedure!
We drove slowly through the historic city of Washington D.C., past the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and the rest.
Looking up to “Capital Hill” I told Diep that the City of Washington was planned and designed by the Frenchman Pierre Lafonte. He wanted the American nation’s capital designed is a style like that of Paris. As a result, Washington has several “circles,” like Dupont and Thoomas Circle. Each makes for a beautiful mini-park inside the city. Most circles feature some statue or monument to remind Americans of their history.
At the Smithsonian I took Diep to the Vietnamese-American Exhibit. She marveled at the tribulations and the achievement of her countrymen.
I told Diep I cried when I first came here: but my wife, Lien, who experienced many of the hardships depicted seemed delighted to be reunited with the “Boat People.”
Diep enjoyed the exhibit greatly but she asked me to find for her the space exhibit. We walked to the National Air and Space Museum; the Smithsonian’s most visited museum.
In the main entrance lobby one can see some of the most famous U.S. spacecraft.
On July 21, 1969, American Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon.
The astronaut stepped onto the Moon’s surface, in the Sea of Tranquility, at 0256 GMT, nearly 20 minutes after first opening the hatch on the Eagle landing craft.We stood in front of the command module that brought Armstrong and his crewmates home: wide-eyed with wonderment.
Diep told me she was in Washington D.C. during that historic space flight. She was on scholarship from Vietnam! She closed her eyes and touched the spacecraft and, inspired from above, we said "The Lord's Prayer" together in Vietnamese. I think it was a prayer for all Americans everywhere but especially for space travelers....
World War II and Vietnam Memorial
We drove slowly past the World War II Memorial: a colossal and significant monument to the men and women who served.
I parked (illegally) and escorted Diep into the Vietnam Memorial; reminding her that it was designed by an Asian, Maya Ying Lin.
I scampered back to the illegally parked car but Diep stayed to soak in the significance of the Vietnam Memorial.
When she returned to the car she told me she found the names of two American soldiers she has met in Vietnam during the war. Now they are gone: sacrificed in a brave but failed effort to save some of Vietnam from Communism.....
As we ended our day Diep thanked me for being an adequate tour guide and said, “You were lucky to have been born in the United States of America.”