At the Air Force Memorial, the sky really is the limit. But you don’t have to be a former fighter pilot to grasp the magic of flight, or the meaning of one of the newest memorials in the greater Washington, D.C. area. So make a short stop at the Air Force Memorial and ponder how much of the nation’s military might is predicated on the continuing use of air power and how prominent a role it has played in battles past.
It does not take long to visit the Air Force Memorial, but the missions of decades past come quickly to mind: the waves of attack planes from World War II, the wars in Korea and Vietnam, the ongoing battles of Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a quote from Gen. Carl A. (Toocy) Spaatz, the Air Force’s first Chief of Staff, etched on marble at the memorial, notes, “We better be prepared to dominate the skies above the surface of the earth or be prepared to be buried beneath it.”
It is a memorial simple in its design, one that can be seen from Interstate 395 heading north into Washington, D.C. in daytime or magnificently lit at night. Visit the site and stand amidst the trio of curving, obelisk-like, stainless steel spires that soar 270 feet into the sky and imagine the danger, bravery and courage of fighter pilots past, present and future. It’s a dizzying sensation to peer straight up into the sky to squint at the tops of the spires that gracefully angle out in three directions as if planes in formation were peeling off from each other in search of separate targets.
The three spires are meant to commemorate core values of the Air Force: integrity, service before self and excellence in all that is undertaken.
And nearby granite tablets note the virtues as carried through the years, from the founding of the first precursor to the Air Force, the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, formed in 1907, to the creation of the modern Air Force after World War II.
Gen. John P. Jumper, the 17th Air Force Chief of Staff, aptly espouses the Air Force credo, saying, “Service before self is that virtue within us all which elevates the human spirit, compels us to reach beyond our meager selves to attach our spirit to something bigger than we are.”
That spirit is captured with a quiet visit amidst the soaring spires at the Air Force Memorial.
Stand on the plaza of the memorial and gaze eastward toward Washington, D.C. You’ll have a magnificent view of the Pentagon in near sight and the Washington Monument and the Capitol further out on the horizon. And then look upward at the tips of the three spires and imagine yourself as the pilot of a fighter jet.
For more information visit: www.airforcememorial.org
Air Force Memorial
Hours: 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. April 1 – Sept. 30 and 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. Oct. 1 – March 31.
Admission: The memorial is free and open every day of the year.
Parking: Scant near the memorial, although occasionally you can find street parking along Columbia Pike.
Metrorail: Blue or Yellow Line to either the Pentagon or Pentagon City stop. It is about a half-mile walk from either Metro station to the memorial.