Americans don’t have to look far for sources of historical remembrance, gratitude, and appreciation. Across the United States, many memorials can be found recognizing Americans from all walks of life, from past presidents to unknown soldiers who gave their lives for their country. Whether built in marble or stainless steel, these tributes stir hearts with stories of sacrifice, endurance, and steadfast bravery. From the shores of Hawaii to downtown New York, these 10 memorials demonstrate the meaning of the words, “Freedom is not free.”
Lincoln’s Tomb, Springfield, IL
Dedicated in 1874, this tomb is the final resting place of President Abraham Lincoln, his wife, Mary, and three of their sons. The corridors are lined with bronze plaques featuring quotes from the 16th president’s most famous speeches, including Lincoln’s second inaugural address, his farewell address to Springfield, and the Gettysburg Address.
Women In Military Service For America Memorial, Arlington, VA
This memorial honors the 2.5 million (and growing) women who have served in the Armed Forces, from active duty soldiers to Special Services and Red Cross. Groundbreaking on the site began in 1995, although the country’s first female soldier dates back to the Revolutionary War, when Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man to enlist and fight.
National Memorial Arch, Valley Forge, PA
Modeled after the Arch of Titus in Rome, this 60-foot-tall arch commemorates the fortitude of George Washington and his Continental Army, who survived brutal cold and near starvation to make it to Valley Forge during the winter of 1777. The General feared his soldiers would unravel and the cause would be lost, but the men’s loyalty to Washington held fast. In June 1778, the Army marched to fight the British at the Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey, where they won.
National September 11th Memorial & Museum, New York, NY
At the September 11th Memorial & Museum in downtown Manhattan, two memorial pools mark the footprints where the World Trade Center towers stood. Water cascades down the walls of the 30-foot-deep pools, and the sound of falling water camouflages the ambient city noises. The names of the dead are inscribed along the perimeter of the pools at street level for visitors to read.
U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington, VA
Dedicated in 1954, this sculpture reproduces the iconic World War II photograph of six Marines raising the American flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The inscription on the 78-foot-tall memorial reads, “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.”
USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, HI
This memorial rests atop the sunken wreckage of the USS Arizona, one of the battleships bombed by Japanese Naval Forces on December 7, 1941. Built to resemble a bridge, the white building stands out against the green Hawaiian waters, and large open windows give view to the ship’s wreckage below.
Korean War Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C
A 164-foot wall leads to the Pool of Remembrance to honor Korean War veterans, but the 19 statues that roam the ground are this memorial’s most iconic image. Cast in stainless steel and dressed in ponchos, the seven-foot-tall figures tread across granite slabs meant to represent the rice paddies of Korea.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C.
Over 58,000 names are inscribed along the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, which stands 10 feet tall at its center and tapers down to meet the ground. Simple yet evocative, the polished black granite design was conceived by architect student Maya Lin, who won an open national contest for the planned memorial in 1981. Today, many Vietnam veterans visit the wall to make a rubbing of the names of lost comrades.
National World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Opened to the public in 2004, this majestic memorial honors the 16 million who served their country during World War II. Just past the grand fountain, the Freedom Wall contains over 4,000 gold stars, with each star commemorating the lives of 100 Americans who died for the cause.
Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington, VA
On Armistice Day in 1921, the remains of an unidentified World War I soldier were laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery to honor all unnamed fallen soldiers from that war. Inscribed on the tomb are the words, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” The tradition was repeated after World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The tomb is guarded day and night by sentinels selected from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, the country’s oldest active infantry unit. These sentinels follow an exacting routine casually called “walking the mat,” which involves a series of 21-count steps and moments of silence in keeping with the solemnity of the site.
These memorials are free and open to the public year-round, excepting certain national holidays such as Christmas. Some memorials have on-site museums which may charge admission, including the September 11th Memorial & Museum.