With Veterans Day weekend upon us, historian and author Douglas Brinkley talks with Tim Smight for USA TODAY about where to honor military heroes from our nation's history.
General Grant National Memorial New York City
In Riverside Park on Manhattan's Upper West Side, the tomb of Civil War general and 18th president Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) overlooks the Hudson River. "Of all the great generals the U.S. Army has produced, I admire Grant the most," Brinkley says. "I visit his tomb whenever I'm in New York. It's a peaceful place to sit and reflect on the Civil War." 212-666-1640; nps.gov/gegr
Oakwood Cemetery Huntsville, Texas
"Sam Houston (1793-1863), buried in this small cemetery just outside Huntsville, was both an excellent military man and an astute politician," Brinkley says. "He led the Texas forces to victory over Mexico in the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836, was elected the first president of the Republic of Texas, and after statehood served as governor and U.S. senator." 936-295-8113; huntsvilletexas.com
Zachary Taylor National Cemetery Louisville
"Zachary Taylor (1784-1850), our 12th president, was a true hero of the Mexican-American War," Brinkley says. "He was a great fighter and a brilliant strategist. In 1847, against overwhelming odds, he triumphed over Santa Anna in the Battle of Buena Vista. I consider that the greatest upset in U.S. military history." 502-893-3852; www.cem.va.gov/CEM/cems/nchp/zacharytaylor.asp
Arlington National Cemetery Arlington, Va.
Of the more than 300,000 gravesites in this sprawling military cemetery, perhaps the most significant memorial is the Tomb of the Unknowns. Guarded 24 hours a day by specially trained members of the 3rd United States Infantry, the grave stands as a collective memorial to all unidentified U.S. soldiers who lost their lives in combat. "It's an extraordinarily moving place," Brinkley says. "The site sits on a hill overlooking Washington, D.C., providing a spectacular view of our revered institutions." 703-607-8000; arlingtoncemetery.org
Granary Burying Ground Boston
This historic cemetery is the resting place for many notable Revolutionary War-era figures, including Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere. "But most meaningful to me is the grave of Crispus Attucks (1723-1770), a free black man who lived in Boston," Brinkley says. "He was one of five people shot and killed by British troops in the Boston Massacre, the initial salvo of the American Revolution. Attucks wasn't a soldier, but he made the ultimate sacrifice in the struggle for freedom from oppression." cityofboston.gov/freedomtrail/parkstreet.asp
Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum Abilene, Kan.
The resting place of the World War II general and 34th president (1890-1969) is in a small building called the Place of Meditation. Designed in accordance with Eisenhower's wishes, a portion of the building is reserved for quiet reflection. "That gives you real insight into the character of Dwight D. Eisenhower," Brinkley says. "He was at heart a peaceful and thoughtful man who spent his entire life pursuing duty, honor and love of country." 877-746-4453; www.eisenhower.utexas.edu
Mount Vernon Estate and Garden Mount Vernon, Va.
George Washington (1732-1799), the nation's first president and hero of the Revolutionary War, is buried in a peaceful wooded area on the grounds of his scenic estate high above the Potomac River. "Washington was an incredibly strong and steadfast leader during a critical and tumultuous time in our history," Brinkley says. "My parents would take me to visit his grave every year. I was always awed to think that George Washington was right there in front of me." 703-780-2000; mountvernon.org
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Honolulu
Known as "The Punchbowl," this cemetery is inside an extinct volcanic crater. "Among the 47,000 veterans laid to rest here are hundreds of unidentified soldiers and sailors who died in the Pacific Theater during World War II," Brinkley says. "It's a truly dramatic setting — the rim offers magnificent views of Oahu." At nearby Pearl Harbor, the public can visit the USS Arizona Memorial, which honors those who perished in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that thrust the United States into World War II. 808-532-3720; www.cem.va.gov/CEM/cems/nchp/nmcp.asp
Ketchum Cemetery Ketchum, Idaho
"America has several notable World War I heroes, but I think Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) deserves mention," Brinkley says. "He was almost killed by shrapnel while driving an ambulance with the Red Cross in Italy, and also served as a war correspondent during the Spanish Civil War and World War II. He wrote vivid accounts of battle and produced two great novels based on his wartime experiences: A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls." 208-726-3841; ketchumidaho.org
Lori Piestewa Gravesite Tuba City, Ariz.
Army Pfc. Lori Piestewa (1979-2003) was the first female U.S. soldier killed in the Iraq war and the first Native American woman killed in combat. "I came upon Lori's grave when I visited a Hopi community doing research for a book," Brinkley says. "Her memorial in a tiny cemetery outside town serves as a reminder that almost every community in America has a local hero to whom people can pay their respects."