|Patriotic pride in mid-america|
|Indianapolis remembers vets with a wealth of war memorials|
|Published: May/June 2003
|By Tom Reed|
|The war on terrorism has rekindled patriotic fervor across the nation. In Indianapolis, with its extraordinary collection of memorials to the men and women who fought and died in Americas wars, patriotism is a visual component to downtown.
The city claims to be second only to Washington, D.C., in its number of war memorials. All are within walking distance of downtown hotels and attractions, and motorists have metered parking near most of the sites.
Start with the Civil War
Monument Circle, in the heart of the downtown business district, is a good place to start. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument has been an Indianapolis landmark since 1902, when it was dedicated as a memorial to the Civil War and Spanish-American War.
The Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum opened in October 1999 on the ground level of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Nine video screens add a contemporary touch to the exhibits of Indianas role in the war. A glass-enclosed observation tower atop the monument offers a great view of downtown Indianapolis.
A memorial service on Monument Circle is a part of the 500 Festival events, leading up to the Indianapolis 500 auto race. This years service will be held at 11 a.m. on May 23.
he $1 fee for the tower is the only charge youll encounter for any of the memorials in this article. The museum is open WednesdaySunday from 10 a.m.6 p.m.
World War I inspires plaza
From Monument Circle, walk two blocks north on Meridian Street to the five-block Indiana War Memorial Plaza. The plaza, dominated by the 210-foot-high neoclassical Indiana World War Memorial Building, was created after World War I.
On the upper level is the Shrine Room, a dark and solemn place surrounded by huge blood-red columns. In the center, a 17-by-30-foot American flag hangs over the Altar of Consecration. High above, light filters in through dark blue stained glass windows.
Bill Sweeney, executive director of the Indiana War Memorials Commission, noted an upsurge of visitors in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
They would go to the Shrine Room and just sit and think. It became more of a place of meditation than a tourist attraction, he said.
The museum on the lower level covers Hoosiers roles in all of Americas wars, up to and including the war on terror. Two exhibitsa renovated Vietnam War section and a new Cold War exhibitare opening in May.
The building is open WednesdaySunday from 9 a.m.6 p.m.
In the next block north are separate memorials to World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Nearby are the American Legion Mall and the headquarters of the veterans organization with 2.8 million members. Visitors are welcome. Staff members will give tours of the building, which includes a museum. Its open MondayFriday from 8 a.m.4 p.m.
World War II naval disaster
Five blocks away, on the Canal Walk at Walnut Street, is a memorial to the USS Indianapolis, the last large American combat ship lost in World War II.
The cruiser earned 10 battle stars in the Pacific, survived a kamikaze attack and delivered the atomic bomb that was later dropped on Hiroshima. That may have hastened the end of the war, but not soon enough for the Indianapolis.
Japanese torpedoes hit the ship on July 30, 1945. Of the 1,196 men aboard, about 900 were thrown into the water, but of those, only 316 survived after five days of shark attacks, starvation, thirst, exposure and wounds.
The granite monument has an image of the ship on one side and the names of the crew members on the other.
Freedom is not free
Continue walking south and then west on the Canal Walk and youll come to the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial. The 27 curved blue-green glass walls are inscribed with the names of recipients of the 3,456 medals awarded since the Civil War.
When you go to a national memorial and see your name on it, it makes you feel humble, said Sammy Davis, whose bravery is also recognized in an exhibit in the World War Memorial Museum. Davis suffered extensive wounds in a 1967 battle, but continued firing artillery shells at the enemy and risked his own life to rescue three wounded comrades. The Hoosier native, who now lives in Flat Rock, Ill., is Indianas only surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War.
Stories recorded by recipients are played 24 hours a day on a sound system. Timothy Bates, who oversaw construction of the memorial and who serves on its board of directors, says the recipients didnt want to talk about their own exploits, but gladly agreed to tell the stories of other heroes.
The memorial is located within the citys new downtown showplace, White River State Park, which also includes the Indiana State Museum, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the NCAA Hall of Champions, and the Indianapolis Zoo.
Theres no shortage of things to do in Indianapolis, but in this post 9/11 era, take time to visit the citys rich store of war memorials. As Bates said, they serve as reminders that freedom is not free.
Other Midwestern cities honor war dead
Throughout the Midwest, many cities have erected great monuments and memorials to honor their native sons and daughters who served their country in the cause of freedom.
|Tom Reed is a new contributor from North Olmsted, Ohio.|