Remembering Charles Davis at Arlington National Cemetery

It’s easy to miss things in Arlington National Cemetery. Most people want to see the changing of the guard and the eternal flame of John F. Kennedy’s grave. It’s already a long walk so they don’t see much else.

Those are great things to see, but the more you wander Arlington’s grounds the more you can appreciate what a special place it is. And so I spent a day in February walking Arlington, looking for things I hadn’t seen or not for awhile when I came across this gorgeous large black marble stone in section 7A not far from the Tombs of the Unknown and just down the row from heavyweight champion Joe Louis.

Charles W. Davis was a Congressional Medal of Honor winner for his heroics in the 1943 Battle of Mount Austin, the Galloping Horse and Sea Horse on the island of Guadalcanal. Davis volunteered to carry messages between companies under fire. Captain of the 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry division, he later led an attack. When his rifle jammed on its first shot, he took out his pistol and kept fighting. The daring move inspired others to follow in winning the battle. He was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Davis later served during the Korean and Vietnam wars and retired as a colonel. He died in 1991. His wife Joan died in 2013 while their son Pvt. John Broderick Davis died in 1984.

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The coolest monument in Arlington National Cemetery

I’ve seen probably 95 percent of Arlington National Cemetery and Section 1 in the back is my hands-down favorite. You never know what you’ll find among hundreds of ornate markers.

Leave it to a sailor to have a breath-taking marker of a ship riding the seas with an angel blowing a horn. It seems so real that you will stop to look at it.

Capt. Nathan Sargent, who actually rose to commander of the Atlantic Fleet and Asiatic Fleet and member of the Navy General Board, is buried alongside his wife Isabell Hill Sargent.

Sargent spent much of his life in nearby Washington. He graduated from Gonzaga College (which today is a high school and college preparatory school) and from the U.S. Naval Academy in nearby Annapolis in 1870.

After 35 years in the Navy, Sargent lived in Washington until his 1907 death.

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Wordless Wednesday: Enjoy the magnolias

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Witherspoon caught at crossroads

Sometimes, the busiest venues can be the worst places to honor past Americans with statues.

John Witherspoon is along Connecticut Ave. and N St. N.W. on a spit of land barely big enough for the 10-foot statue high atop a granite base. You’d think a signer of the Declaration of Independence would be given a quieter venue, but this site actually has historical merit.

Witherspoon left his ministry in Scotland to head the College of New Jersey, now called Princeton. He educated many of America’s political leaders, including James Madison and Aaron Burr, three U.S. Supreme Court judges, 10 Cabinet members, 28 U.S. Senators, 49 Congressmen and 12 Continental Congressmen.

Upset over the crown’s interference in local matters, Witherspoon became one of New Jersey’s signers for the Declaration of Independence. After the war, he returned to rebuild the college.

The Presbyterian minister was remembered with a Bible in his hand and dressed in colonial attire when the statue was erected in 1909 by an adjacent church. However, that church was razed in 1966. Federal officials wanted to relocate the statue, but church members successfully argued it should remain in its original location.

And so Witherspoon does, even if it’s in the middle of madness come rush hour.

By the way, actress Reese Witherspoon is a descendant of the colonial leader.

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Admiral still leads way for Peru

Entering the Peruvian embassy on 17th and Pennsylvania Ave. NW means getting by Miguel Grau first.

The magnificent bust of the country’s person of the past millennium dominates the doorway. There wasn’t room to put it elsewhere and what the heck – he was a big deal.

The marble base says “Gran Almirante” (Great admiral) and “Al Caballero de los mares” (To the Horseman of the seas) for the man who led the Peruvian Navy until 1879 when killed at naval Battle of Angamos by an armored-piercing shell during a war with Chile. In fact, there wasn’t much left of Grau, who is now interred in El Callao, Peru. He was called “The Gentleman of the Seas” for his compassion during battle with Chile while holding off the opposing invasion for six months through his stealth attacks on opposing ships.

The Peruvian embassy and chancery was built in 1910 as a private residence designed in Italian classicism. The Australian government sold it to Peru in 1973.

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Wordless Wednesday: Shelly’s Backroom

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Crikey – Australian seal is its own animal

The Australian Seal is a sculpture like no other around town.

Featuring a kangaroo and an emu, the 5 by 8 foot bronze sculpture in front of the Australian Embassy at 16th St. and Massachusetts Ave. N.W. stops passerby. Just what the heck is this?

Sculptor Thomas Bass created the seal with all of Australia’s icons. Besides the native animals, it has a seven-point star representing six states and the Northern Territories where native aborigines live. The crest includes political icons and plants and animals.

Sorry, no Crocodile Dundee.

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Third Infantry — Rock of the Marne

I love monuments that come with explanations. This granite marker in Arlington National Cemetery not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns explains why the Army unit is so important. I’ll simply let it explain itself.

“The 3rd Division was organized at Camp Green, N.C. on 23 November 1917. All units of the division were in France by March 1918. The division entered combat in May. On July 15 it distinquished itself in defense of the Marne River at Chateau-Thierry, forty-five miles northeast of Paris. This act earned the division the proud motto, “Rock of the Marne.”

“The 3D Infantry Division fought with distinction in World War I participating in four amphibious landings in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and France. The division played a crucial role in the defense of South Korea. It returned to Germany in 1957 as part of the NATO defense force and was there when the 3D Division Memorial was dedicated on August 15, 1990.”

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More than a pile of rocks

The grounds of the Organizational States of America are filled with artwork. One looks like a pile of rocks. That’s because it is.

According to a nearby marker, the stones are an Inuksuk — “A northern stone land marker used by the Inuit for navigation, communication and to mark hunting and fishing grounds; it symbolizes the traditional Inuit way of life.

“Canada presented this Inuksuk to the Organization of American States to celebrate its 20th anniversary of membership and to underscore its commitment to the hemisphere. This Inuksuk was built in April 2010 by artist Peter Irniq.”

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Wordless Wednesday: Arlington National Cemetery

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John Glenn: From the stars to Arlington National Cemetery

Growing up in the 1960s, our heroes were astronauts. Men were going to the moon. The moon! Today, space exploration seems doable, but back then they were flying in outer space with less technology than in our cell phones.

My first trip to Arlington National Cemetery after the winter break meant finding astronaut John Glenn. He lies about 50 yards southwest of the Memorial Amphitheater in Section 35, grave 1543. It’s a five-minute walk from the Changing of the Guard.

Glenn’s grave included five pennies atop the marker, which is an old throwback to paying the ferryman to take you to the afterlife. Today, it means anyone came by and wanted to say hi. It’s like leaving flowers.

Glenn lived quite the life. A Marine Corps colonel, Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth, spinning past three times in 1962. He was a U.S. Senator from Ohio from 1974-99. In good health all of his life and even flying into his 80s, Glenn died on Dec. 8, 2016 at age 95.

As fellow Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter hailed Glenn’s first space launch, “Godspeed, John Glenn.”

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The boxer and actor

One of my favorite stops while walking through Arlington National Cemetery is just below the Tomb of the Unknowns where heavyweight champion Joe Louis lies next to famed actor Lee Marvin. Maybe it’s just a good spot to catch your breath before scaling the final walk to see the Changing of the Guard, but it’s also a good two-fer.

Louis was a Technical Sergeant in the U.S. Army while Marvin was a Private First Class in the Marines. Both served in World War II. Louis joined in 1942 and served in the Special Services Division and was best known for saying, “Lots of things wrong with America, but Hitler ain’t going to fix them” and “We’ll win, because we’re on God’s side.” He was withheld from combat for fear of being targeted by Germans. He earned the Legion of Merit before discharged on Oct. 1, 1945. Of course, he was also heavyweight champion boxer of the world.

Marvin enlisted in 1942 and served with the 4th Marine Division in the Pacific. He was shot twice during the Battle of Saipan, severing his sciatic nerve and hitting his foot. He was medically discharged in 1945. Marvin earned multiple medals, including a Purple Heart. He’s best known for becoming an actor in 30-plus movies, including the crusty colonel in “The Dirty Dozen.”

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Wordless Wednesday: Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Amphitheater

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Museum of the Bible is a real beauty

The first thing you notice upon entering the Museum of the Bible is the ceiling. Sometimes it’s flowers, sometimes it looks like the Sistine Chapel. But, it’s the most amazing video board I’ve ever seen.

Turns out that’s just the start for Washington’s newest museum.

The elevators have three large monitors with museum that make you feel like you’re in the Holy Lands. A table suddenly has foods for meals that look so real you’re ready to eat. And throughout the facility are videos of past Biblical re-enactors talking about their lives.

It’s pretty cool.

My favorite part was on level three that is a re-creation of the Holy Lands in the Old Testament. It’s something straight out of Disney that provides a real feel of village life.

The museum also has large rooms of bibles of different faiths. Tapestries that double as video screens. A jail cell that tells stories of forgiveness.

The museum is a mixture of past relics and current technologies. We spent four hours, including lunch that is a quite unusual but delicious menu complete with boxes (not bottles) of water. That’s a long time in a museum for me and we missed a couple areas. Oh well, I’m sure there will be return trips with family and friends.

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X marks Deep Throat’s spot

As a journalist in town for 40 years, this is my holy ground. A parking garage where secrets that brought down a president were told.

Military folks love the World War II, Korean and Vietnam Memorials. Nurses want to see the trio near the Vietnam wall. Political buffs head for Capitol Hill.

Well, I’m an old newspaper man in this town. A sports columnist for the Washington Post Express and 106.7 The Fan nowadays, but I’ve been there and done that for several papers since 1978.

Watergate was the biggest story of my teen years. I’ve wanted to be a newspaper reporter since 1972 when seeing the school paper. It coincided with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein breaking stories about the Democratic headquarters break-in at the Watergate hotel that ultimately led to President Nixon resigning.

Everybody wanted to be an investigative reporter. It didn’t matter that I cover sports. There are shadows wherever you work. My first big scoop was in 1986 over a high school recruiting scandal. Over the years, I spent my share of time in late-night meetings in public places getting information long before days of cell phones made clandestine meetings less necessary.

I had to stop by the parking garage on Nash St. in Rosslyn where a historical marker was erected last August detailing where Woodward met “Deep Throat,” identified as FBI official Mark Felt in 2005 before his death, a half dozen times from October 1972-November 1973 for information. Parking space 32D. It’s still there.

It was brilliant – hiding in plain sight, as I like to say.

The marker on Nash St. in Arlington, Va. just down the quiet street from the Hyatt bordering Wilson Blvd. says:

“Mark Felt, second in command at the FBI, met Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward here in this parking garage to discuss the Watergate scandal. Felt provided Woodward information that exposed the Nixon administration’s obstruction of the FBI’s Watergate investigation. He chose the garage as an anonymous secure location. They met at this garage six times between October 1972 and November 1973. The Watergate scandal resulted in President Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Woodward’s managing editor, Howard Simons, gave Felt the code name “Deep Throat.” Woodward’s promise not to reveal his source was kept until Felt announced his role as Deep Throat in 2005.”

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Peak cherry blossom bloom expected March 17-20

The National Park Service expects the peak cherry blossom bloom is March 17 to 20. The Washington Post Weather Gang expects it a few days later.

When will they really bloom? Who knows?

It’s always a guess. A guess by smart people based on data, but things change. Last year, a nor’easter came out of nowhere and killed more than half the blossoms. So, stand by. And when they peak bloom, go out and enjoy them.

Meanwhile, the National Kite Festival on the National Mall is March 31 while the cherry blossom parade is April 14.

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Wordless Wednesday: Lincoln Memorial

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Vaquero unleashes a wild ride

It is a moment of madness. The Mexican-American cowboy with his gun raised skyward and his horse appearing earthbound trying to buck the rider. Vaquero captures one wild moment.

Outside the American Art Museum-National Portrait Gallery on F St. between 7th and 9th Sts. N.W., the 16-foot fiberglass statue is as imposing for its bright colors as its action. Sculpted by Luis Jiminez of El Paso, the Vaquero was first created for Houston in 1982. Critics said it looked like a drunken bandit while advocates said it represented an 1800s cowboys.

Jiminez made a second casting for the Smithsonian site in 1990. It was in storage from 2000-06, according to James Goode’s “Washington Sculptures,” during renovations to the former Patent Office. Ironically, wrote Goode, Jiminez died in a sculpting accident at age 66 the same week Vaquero returned in 2006.

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World War I remembered at Arlington National Cemetery

The Arlington National Cemetery Visitors Center remembers “The Great War” with a display commemorating the 100th anniversary of its end. The lobby is filled with World War I paintings, photos and information on the war that changed the world and launched the U.S. as a global superpower.

World War I was from July 28,1914 to Nov. 11 1918. The U.S. didn’t join the war until 1917.

More than 5,000 Americans serving in World War I are buried at Arlington. Another 30,000 are buried overseas. Some four million Americans served during the war with 116,000 deaths.
The joint exhibit with the American Battle Monuments Commission will have its official opening ceremony on March 31 at 8 a.m. The exhibit will remain until November.

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Wordless Wednesday: DC World War I Memorial

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