Near Arlington National Cemetery, where President John F. Kennedy reposes, this incredible bronze sculpture created by Felix W. de Weldon from 1951 to 1954 has metaphoric innuendo galore. Semper fidelis (shortened in Marine context to semper fi) is Latin for “always faithful” or “always loyal”. That maxim is inscribed in the granite base represented by two profound testaments: “Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue” and “In Honor And Memory Of The Men Of The United States Marine Corps Who Have Given Their Lives To Their Country Since 10 November 1775”.
A few blocks south of Key Bridge Marriott and the Rosslyn Metro Station on Fort Myer Drive (which becomes North Meade St.) and Arlington Blvd., a large park is home to the US Marine Corps War Memorial, locally called “Iwo Jima” because of Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photograph of five Marines and one sailor raising the American flag after a long battle on Japan’s Iwo Jima Island. The sculpture resulting from that photograph symbolizes teamwork, no one individual raised the flag. Not only did Marines raise the flag, a sailor from the US Navy participated. Truly, uncommon valor was a common virtue that seems to be lost with the “me” generations that have followed those valiant soldiers. I found inspiration and solace at this site that costs nothing, but the emotional toll exacted is sobering.
While visiting, busloads of youngsters ran around counting the number of legs on the conglomerate sculpture. “Why?” I asked, and several said rumor has it that there’s an extra leg. A quick Web search indicates that, possibly, there are 13 hands raising the flag, but only 12 legs, that I could count. This is part of the extensive National Park Service, which identifies information at its website, nps.gov/gwmp/historyculture/usmcwarmemorial.htm
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