“In honor and in memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since November 10, 1775.”

We were in Washington, DC for the Fourth of July and on our trek took a walk to the Marine Corps Memorial, as it was the only one of the great war monuments we had not visited in the city. My son has always been deeply interested in military history, so this was a must see.

The Marine Corps Memorial in Washington, DC is a unique monument, standing outside the walls of Arlington, Memorial Cemetery, that wasn’t conceptualized in an artist’s studio. Based off of a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press near the end of World War II, the sculpture is of five Marines and a Navy hospital Corpsman: Sgt. Michael Strank, Cpl. Harlon H. Block, Pfc. Franklin R. Sousley, Pfc. Rene A. Gagnon, Pfc. Ira Hayes; and PhM 2/c John H. Braldey, USN.

Photograph that inspired the Marine Corps Memorial

The sculpture came to life when sculptor Felix W. de Weldon, US Navy, was so moved by the image he created a scale model, eventually creating a life-size model that would be cast in bronze. While de Weldon was able to accurately recreate the faces of Gagnon, Hayes and Bradley, by molding their faces from clay, he had to collect statistics on Sousley and Block, who were killed in action on Iwo Jima.


“Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

When visiting the Marine Corps Memorial, you can look down over the city and see almost every memorial and monument surrounding the National Mall. You can also give the kids a mini-history lesson, as it’s one of the few places the American Flag flies 24 hours a day.

Even if there are hundreds of people milling about, the sense of reverence is strong. There are always veterans visiting the monument and one of the snippets of conversation I picked up between two that stuck with me was “We just had to do our job. Not think, just do. Those are the best conversations with the others visiting, just listening to their experiences and then taking a moment to thank them for their service to our country.


Marshall Drive, between Route 50 and Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, VA. The Iwo Jima Memorial is located about six blocks from the Rosslyn Metro Station.


Free. Open 24 hours a day.


Take the Metro to the Rosslyn stop and follow the signs. It’s an easy 5-10 minute walk with a few modest hills.

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