Star Wars coming to Smithsonian Air & Space

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Ben Franklin along Pennsylvania Ave.

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Visit Great Falls

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Iwo Jima memorial

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VP heading to the Hill

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Lost in a sunflower maze

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How to say War-shington

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Roman statues at Union Station

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Driving around Washington in 1941

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Visit Charlottesville, Va.

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Visit two regional aviation museums

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A stone of another color

It’s funny what grabs you while walking among the graves at Arlington National Cemetery.

The large purple quartz marker that includes the plaque of James Fingal Gregory is one of a kind. At least, I’ve never seen one like it and have covered probably 90 percent of the cemetery.

Gregory was an engineer so maybe they wanted something unusual from the earth to remember him. The West Point cadet from Albany, N.Y. was only 18 when the Civil War started. He rose through the ranks over the years from Second Lieutenant at war’s end to First Lieutenant the next year to captain in 1874. He became a colonel while serving as Aide-de-Camp to General Sheridan from 1881-86 before dying in 1897. Among Gregory’s achievements was a geodetic survey of the northern lakes, boundary survey of the 49th parallel and survey of the Union and Pacific Railroads.

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Remembering Audie Murphy at Arlington National Cemetery

(Reprinting one of our favorite columns)

It’s amazing how yesterday’s heroes are today’s forgotten ones.

It happens all the time in society. Singers and actors once all the rage now draw blank stares from teens. Sinatra – is that a first or last name?

So it goes with Audie Murphy. Whenever someone asks me where his grave is at Arlington National Cemetery I usually figure they’re at least 70 because no one under 50 has ever asked me and those less than 30 have no idea who he is.

Murphy is buried very near the Memorial amphitheater where the sidewalk bends to accommodate more people by the corner grave. At one time it was the second most visited grave at Arlington behind John F. Kennedy.

Murphy lived an incredible life of helping others. He was the most decorated soldier of World War II after enlisting at age 17, winning the Medal of Honor plus 32 medals, ribbons and citations that included five from France and one from Belgium. After once single-handedly battling Germans for one hour using a machine gun from a burning tank, he simply said, “They were killing my friends.”

Murphy became a movie star after the war, appearing in “To Hell and Back” based on his autobiography of 27 months fighting in Europe and 43 other films.

Murphy was killed in a 1971 plane crash at age 46.

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Society of the Cincinnati and Larz Anderson House

When first hearing the Society of the Cincinnati was not about the town but a Roman soldier, I thought how strange. Weren’t all Roman warriors named Spartacus or something like that?

Well, it was something like that. The Society is named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, a farmer who served as Roman Consul and Magister Populi with lawful dictatorial control of Rome in case of war. After winning a battle, Cincinnatus returned power to the Senate and resuming farming.

George Washington loved that story, seeing his own as a reflection of it. He served as the Society’s first president for 16 years. The Society was formed in the U.S. and France in 1783 by Revolutionary offices to lobby the government to fulfill its promises to them. Today, it’s a nonprofit historical, diplomatic, and educational organization promoting interest in the American Revolution. Members must be descended from a Revolutionary War officer and only one descendant from that officer can be a member at one time.

Today, the Washington branch is housed in the old Larz Anderson House, built from 1902-05 on Massachusetts Ave. near Dupont Circle. The 50-room mansion cost $750,000, but the furnishing are worth far more. Verona marble columns, flying staircase, carved wooden walls, marble floors and even two elevators made it a showcase of its time.

Anderson was from a prominent family in Cincinnati, Ohio and a U.S. diplomat in London, Rome, Belgium and Japan. He was a member of the Society.

The Andersons used the home for entertaining diplomats, including Presidents William H. Taft and Calvin Coolidge and several kings. When Anderson died without children in 1937, his widow gave the house to the Society. It’s now a National Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Scott: Best general of whom you’ve probably never heard

The legend says all statues face the White House. It’s not true, though this one does.

Gen. Winfield Scott’s statue lies in the three-sided circle of Massachusetts and Rhode Island Aves. and 16th St. N.W. just blocks from the White House that he failed to win in 1852. Indeed, Scott nearly ran in 1860 but decided he was getting too old. Instead, Scott lived until 1866, one year after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

Scott was a bonafide military hero; veteran of three wars against Mexicans, Cherokee Indians and British. Scott served a half century and wrote the military’s first drill regulations.

The pedestal is 15 feet high, which James Goode’s bible of local monuments “Washington Sculpture” says was the largest single block of granite then quarried. Scott dons his field uniform of lieutenant general while looking ahead while his horse rests.

Goode says the horse was supposed to be a mare until family objections that generals always rode stallions. Sculptor Henry Kirke Brown modeled the horse after Scott’s favorite mare. Let’s just say certain additions were made to satisfy everyone. Wouldn’t be the first or last deal made in Washington.

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The best view in town is . . .

Tourists ask this all the time.

It’s not from the top of the Washington Monument despite being the highest point in town. Ditto for the Old Post Office Pavillion or the National Cathedral. And while the porch at the Newseum is great for seeing Capitol Hill, all these points aren’t as good as two places across the Potomac River.

The best daytime view of Washington (above) is from the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. The whole town is layed out in front of you. The same essential view can be seen from nearby Arlington House. Both require a moment to catch your breath after climbing a steep hill, but it’s worth it.

The best nighttime view is from the nearby Netherlands Carillion between Arlington National Cemetery and the Iwo Jima memorial. You can line up the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol. The cemetery is closed at night so this is your best stop, though the Air Force Memorial on the other side of ANC is pretty good, too.

The most picturesque view from street level is M St. in Georgetown. Just a nice glimpse of the old days. But, Embassy Row along Massachussetts Ave. with its flags runs a close second. Of course, the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin is the best, but only lasts a week or so.

What are your favorites?

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Rochambeau led French to America’s aid

Gen. Comte Jean de Rochambeau is shown in Lafayette Park as a major general of the Continental Army directing his arm with his outstretched right hand with an unfurled copy of the battle plan in his left.

Underneath Rochambeau is the lady figure of Liberty – two flags in her left hand to signify the unity of France and America. He has a sword ready in his right hand to defend the eagle that represents America. The bow of the boat she has just left is seen behind her while the waves break at her feet. The eagle’s right claw grasps the 13 stars that represent the 13 colonies while its left claw fends off opponents. A branch of laurel lies at its feet to signify peace.

On the west side is Rochambeau’s family coat of arms while on the east is a coat of arms representing France. On the rear is a quote from George Washington to Rochambeau that they have worked together as brothers.

Rocheambeau led nearly 7,000 French soldiers as part of France’s aid to America. He was present at Gen. Charles Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown, Va. that ended the war.

The statue is a copy of one in Rochambeau’s French birthplace. It was dedicated in 1902 by president Teddy Roosevelt with the Rochambeau family onlooking.

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Visit Leonardtown, Md.

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Visit the U.S. Navy Memorial

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Happy 4th of July

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