I was so fortunate this summer to be able to spend two whole weeks in Washington, DC (thanks to the kindness of my in-laws, who took care of my daughter while Hubs was at work). It’s no secret that DC is one of my favorite places to visit, not for the politics, but for the wealth of history and genealogical resources. I’d be lying if I said wasn’t jealous of people who can walk into the National Archives or the Library of Congress any ol’ time they please.

This year, I was able to cross something off my Bucket List, and that was to participate in the Washington, DC, Independence Day Parade. I hadn’t been in a parade since I played trombone in the high school band, and I seriously don’t know what I was thinking when I agreed to do this. Not only am I in lousy shape physically, but DC was having a record-breaking heat wave that week. But I’d been saying for years that if the timing worked out, I wanted to do it at least once in my lifetime. Thankfully, there was so much excitement in the air that day that it must have been sheer adrenaline that carried me down the street without passing out or requiring medical attention. In fact, it actually turned out to be a fun experience… though I’m not sure it’s something I want to do again.

Getting ready for the parade. Our group carried three giant versions of the United States flag. I helped carry the “Betsy Ross” flag; there was also a Bennington Flag and the Star-Spangled Banner.
Here’s the Star-Spangled Banner in action. Just as an aside, one of the things I love about DC is being able to see historical buildings while going about your everyday business. Across the Mall there you can see the White House. Across from my street at home, I can see Walmart.
After the parade, we took some time to visit the National Museum of American History. Since it was one of the few buildings that was open – and admission was free – it was PACKED with people trying to escape the heat. Thankfully, the line moved pretty quickly.
Believe it or not, I had never seen the REAL Star-Spangled Banner before. On my last visit to the Museum, about 11 years ago, it was either in hiding or off limits. We couldn’t even see the conservation efforts in progress at that time. As you can see here, there was a huge line to get into the exhibit, but it was well worth the wait to finally see this amazing piece of history. I couldn’t take a photo of the actual flag because NO cameras were permitted (even with the flash off), and the security guard really took her job seriously. In fact, a few of us forgot that we were wearing little, blinky star pins, and got scolded for those. The exhibit is kept very dark, and no light whatsoever is allowed to come into the area (just a little warning for your next visit).
The historic Willard Hotel covers its entire front face with flags on Independence Day (I would not like to be the person who has to climb up the wall and place those flags). For the record, the hotel is really lovely, and the food’s not bad, either, especially the crab cakes.
Plaque on the front wall of the Willard. Every time I look at it, I get this tacky thought that, “If only they’d had the crab cakes back then… who knows what agreements could have been reached.” I know. I’m sorry.

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Newly-renovated portico of the DAR Building.

The DAR conference was busy and exciting, as usual. Some of the week’s highlights included:

  • The DAR Historic Preservation Recognition Award went to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association for their work in preserving and maintaining the Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.
  • The keynote speaker on National Defense Night was supposed to have been General David H. Petraeus; however, he was otherwise occupied that week. Lieutenant General John R. Allen, Acting Commander of the United States Central Command, graciously filled in, instead. He gave a remarkably good speech for one who filled in at the last minute.
  • The DAR Medal of Honor went to World War II veteran Lieutenant Colonel James Megellas, U.S. Army (Retired). He is said to be “the most-decorated officer in the history of the 82nd Airborne Division,” having received a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, and been nominated for the Medal of Honor.

And yes, Thomas, there were plenty of white gloves!

The best part of the week is always reconnecting with old friends and making new friends, many of whom I only get to see once a year. Oh, and then there’s the DAR Library

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Part 2 – Research Success in the DAR Library – Coming soon!

Copyright © by Elizabeth O’Neal
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