The last Monday in May is set aside to honor the nation’s fallen heroes. The story of Memorial Day began in Waterloo, New York. In 1865, a prominent merchant suggested the idea of placing flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers. It was a year later when the citizens cloaked the village in half-mast flags and decorated the graves of those killed in battle. The ceremonies continued thereafter and culminated with a state proclamation of an annual observance in 1966. Congress followed suit, establishing a nationwide patriotic tradition. Visiting monuments this Memorial Day is a refreshing way of fostering a child’s education outside of the classroom, paying tribute to those who died for our freedom, and remembering America’s leaders. What is the most prominent feature in the landscape of Washington, D.C.? What fort is the celebrated birthplace of the National Anthem? Discover these answers and more about America’s prized monuments.

Washington Monument

Madison Drive, NW & 15th St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

Photo Credit TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

A tribute to the nation’s first president, the Washington Monument can be seen from all parts of the countryside. The marble obelisk honoring George Washington was once compared to a stalk of asparagus by one critic during the structure’s planning stage. There are some 893 steps to the top, and the monument is said to be the tallest, all-stone true obelisk in the world. A 2011 Virginia earthquake shook the monument, and for now, it remains closed to the public for repairs. Go here for a lesson plan on the Washington Monument developed by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places website.

Fort McHenry National Monument
2400 E. Fort Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 962-4290

Photo Credit TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Fort McHenry survived the British bombardment, and Baltimore was safe. The five-pointed star fort is notably know as the birthplace of the National Anthem. On a ship anchored eight miles out from the fort, Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” after watching the fort survive a 24-hour British bombardment during the War of 1812. Some 19 British ships began the initial attack on the fort during the Battle of Baltimore. Go here for lessons on this historic event.

World War II Memorial
7th Street
Washington, D.C., 20001
(202) 619-7222

WWII vet Bill Crump, Photo Credit Catherine Lash

The World War II Memorial is located between Constitution and Independence Avenues and it’s a tribute to those who fought and died in this war. There are 56 granite pillars surrounding the central plaza and the Rainbow Pool, and these pillars represent everyone who served from America’s states and territories. A field of 4,000 gold stars symbolize the 400,000 Americans who gave their lives. Gold star banners were displayed in windows during WW II. A blue star represented a family member serving in the Armed Forces and a gold star represented a family member that died while serving. The History Channel developed a series of lesson plans, including creating a timeline, special projects and inventions.

Devils Tower
Wyoming 82714
(307) 467-5283

Photo Credit

Devils Tower National Monument is located 33 miles northeast of Moorcroft, WY. It is a geologic protrusion in the landscape of the Black Hills, and it’s considered a sacred area and place of worship for several Plains Tribes. The land feature is open 24 hours a day, seven days of the week, while a visitor center and bookstore have limited hours. The first recorded technical climb took place on June 28, 1937. A typical climb takes anywhere from four to six hours, but the quickest recorded climb took place in 18 minutes! Lesson plans include history, culture, nature and science.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Constitution Ave.
Washington, D.C., 20001
(202) 619-7222


Some four million people visit this memorial between 21st and 23rd street annually. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial pays tribute to the 60,000+ men and women who gave their lives during the Vietnam War. There are three distinct parts to this sobering remembrance. The Three Soldiers statute is comprised of three men wearing Vietnam War era uniforms and carrying weapons. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial depicts three female soldiers caring for a wounded serviceman. The woman looking up is named Hope. The woman praying is Faith. The female soldier tending the soldier’s wound is called Charity. The third portion of the memorial consists of two long black granite walls inscribed with the 60,000+ men and women who gave their lives or are missing in action. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund offers teaching resources and lesson plans.

Giant Sequoia National Monument
Supervisor Office
1839 S. Newcomb
Porterville, CA 93257
(559) 784-1500

Photo Credit David McNew/Getty Images

Six people would have to lay head-to-toe to match the distance across the largest sequoia tree! In 2000, President Bill Clinton proclaimed the Giant Sequoia National Monument in California. The monument landscape spreads across 353,000 acres and includes 33 groves of these monumental trees. Hitting the sky at 250 feet high, the sequoia is the largest tree in the world. The Sequoia National Forest is a haven for recreational activities, including 53 campgrounds, magnificent lakes, gorges, archeological sites, hiking, horseback riding, boating, fishing, swimming, skiing and snowboarding. Seven historic guard stations can be rented for overnight cabins. The national monument sits on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada’s.

Korean War Veterans Memorial
Daniel C. French Dr. SW & Lincoln Memorial Circle
Washington, D.C., 20001
(202) 426-6841

Photo Credi Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Korean War Veterans Memorial is adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial and south of the Reflecting Pool. The garden of 19 sculpted soldiers donning rain gear and weapons is perhaps the most stirring element of this memorial. One can actually see the fear and uncertainty on the faces of these young men. The night seems to dramatize the emotions! A black granite wall etched with the faces of those who served stands nearby. Dominantly proclaimed on the granite wall are the words “Freedom Is Not Free.” The National Park Service has developed lesson plans for the Korean War.

Catherine Lash engagingly connects with people. She has learned that interested listening and thoughtful questioning are the means through which collaboration creates a story. She grew up traveling the world and learning military life in an Air Force family of seven. She currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and three kids. Her work can be found at