I saw for my first time the World War II monument, a fittingly full-figured gal of a memorial, with cascading water and garlands and the name of each state spelled out in the granite grandeur. This monument is a permanent V-Day parade.
The day I was there, strolling about with the kind of wide-eyed wonder kids get at Christmas, D.C. was pleasantly cool and accessible.
There were plenty of other tourists, and many were snapping one another's photos in front of the names of their respective states at the circular monument.
"I'm from Mississippi, too," I said to a woman taking her husband's photo in front of the Mississippi space. She smiled but offered no conversation, no hint if they hailed from Greenwood or Gulfport.
I was disappointed, because the monument somehow makes you want to swap stories, same as around a campfire.
I thought of my own father, of course, a World War II veteran of the Pacific Theater, a south Georgia soldier who went as a boy and came back a man.
I've often theorized that the rest of his life - the professional struggles, the family crises, the many hectic moves to make a living - must have seemed a tad anti-climatic after having gone to war. He left here not knowing where he was going, or when he would return, or if he would return. He was willing.
He hasn't seen the monument in person, but a friend brought him back a cap.
Washington is Mecca for lovers of monuments, each one moving us in a different way. People sometimes name their favorite, but I hesitate. Maybe it's Mr. Lincoln.
I love the monument to Jefferson for its elegance. The simplicity of the Wall suits the Vietnam War, and the Washington Monument is classically distinctive. You wouldn't think the memorials would all blend together as well as they do, so different are the styles and renderings. And yet they do, like a neat bookshelf filled with biographies and fiction and travelogue, chockablock words that stay distinctive within their own covers.
But the Lincoln Memorial seems to have the best story, with Eleanor Roosevelt securing the way for Marian Anderson to sing there, and Martin Luther King Jr. booming his "I Have A Dream" speech from the steps to the ages. The former swampland around Lincoln's shrine has become hallowed ground.
I think men and women who design and build such significant pieces of architecture should be household names, celebrated like football players and movie stars.
Which will last longer, a quarterback's Super Bowl record or the Jefferson Memorial?
Most reporters don't topple governments like Woodward and Bernstein; they cover county commission meetings or circuit court. Most architects don't conceive the St. Louis Arch; they design office complexes or hospitals.
I had to look it up. An architect named Henry Bacon designed the Lincoln Memorial. Artist Daniel Chester French sculpted Lincoln.
The memorial is considered Neoclassical, and it ranks seventh - behind, among other structures, the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge - as favorite American architecture.
From now on, I'm going to try to remember the names of the two men whose imaginations gave us the Lincoln Memorial. It's the least I can do.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist. She lives in the Iuka vicinity. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.