A Place of Contrasts
On this extremely hot Wednesday in Virginia we decided to visit the National Museum of the Marine Corps here in Virginia. The museum itself is beautifully designed and landscaped with graceful arches sweeping upward from its roofline to the sky. The general outline of the building was designed to resemble the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
All the exhibits were carefully planned and sequentially followed a time line from the past to the present, from the first Marines who served in the early days of our country to those currently serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in so many other dusty, dangerous places around the world.
The Marines are all expert riflemen who are trained to work as a unit and to abandon the concept of self. When a person becomes a United States Marine he becomes part of a team, only one small part of the greater Corps.
They control the land, the sea, and the air when they move in, and take charge completely of whatever beachhead, whatever hillside, whatever scrap of earth they land upon. They own the seas, they swim like fish, and have almost superhuman strength and stamina. There are no losers, no quitters among their ranks.
As we strolled through the museum the information we already knew about the U S Marine Corps was reinforced and expanded. These “leathernecks” are the most dedicated, toughest guys and gals in the US Military.
We listened once again to the voice of Harry S. Truman, our President during the closing days of WW II, and were drawn into several museum exhibits that simulated battle conditions, with bullets whistling overhead and loud explosions that seemed almost real.
I gained new respect for these quiet, well trained American heroes who are always the first to land, the first to fight, and who take the first casualties. They are unstoppable and make me proud that they are there for us when we need them.
Hats off to all of them. Semper fidelis!
As we were leaving we paid a visit to the Marine Corps Chapel at the top of a gently rising hillside surrounded by trees and flowers .
Just like the Marines themselves, the design of the chapel is uncomplicated and ruggedly simple. It is tough and durable and meant to last a long time.
The bell mounted outside near the entrance was in use during WW II on Guam in the Pacific. Beige stone is the major building material used, plus large expanses of glass on three sides.
The walkways that wind around outside the chapel and into the woods are edged by red bricks bearing the names and dates of Marines who have served our country with valor. I don’t know how many bricks there are, but they must number into the tens of thousands, and more are added every day.
In Washington they erect walls of polished granite and grand statues as memorials; the Marines use simple bricks made from the red clay soil of America to memorialize their dead. Somehow their memorial, in its simplicity, touches your heart and becomes deeply etched in your memory. Like these plain red bricks, the Marines are quiet and unassuming, sturdy and dependable, and they always get the job done.
The backless stone and granite benches lined up towards the front of the chapel face an extremely simple altar with glass behind it. There is a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside from three sides of the room, with a view of the museum in the background.
This is a place of beauty and peace – a place that encourages deep contemplation and quiet prayer.
Someday when the weather is cooler I’d like to return to the museum and stroll outside on the paved trails that meander below the chapel.
If you are passing through Triangle, VA or if you live in the area I encourage you to visit the museum and the chapel. You will come away with a feeling of pride that these Marines are our fellow Americans – all extraordinarily outstanding men and women. And take the time to visit the chapel, too. Spend a few moments in quiet thought and experience the beauty of the place.