- Gettysburg - Every American should be required to visit the battlefield at Gettysburg. Walk the fields. See the views from Big and Little Round Top. Walk up to that big tree where Pickett's Charge was turned back (especially moving for someone who's heritage was on the losing side) and ponder the fate of a nation was sealed that day. Do as I did as a kid and memorize Lincoln's short Gettysburg Address and you will be forever moved. I first went as a 12 year old kid. I've been back twice since as an adult, and the place never fails to make me cry like a baby.
- Pearl Harbor - While this one is tougher to get to for everybody, it is a must see place. If you're military, take the Navy's private tour (vice the Park Service's, h/t Blunoz). At a time when the free world's fate hung in the balance, this vicious attack spurred our country into action. Freedom was saved and events that wouldn't work themselves out for another 50 years (the Cold War) were set into motion. The Arizona memorial, like Gettysburg, is another cry your eyes out site. It's especially difficult these days knowing how many WW2 vets we're losing every day. These guys are national treasures.
- Independence Hall - The place where our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution would be forged and signed is another must see for Americans to truly get a feel for the debates and discussions that framed our country.
- Washington DC monuments, Capital Building and the White House - If a visit, taken within a historical frame of mind, to our nation's capital, doesn't move you to patriotic thoughts, you're not an American. Among the memorials you must put on your list (but may be tempted to miss) - the Iwo Jima memorial, Arlington Cemetary, the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial and close-by Korean War memorial. Walk the halls of Congress and make an effort to visit what is your house after all.
- The Alamo - The first four are required, this one is interesting, and demonstrates what freedom loving men are capable of achieving against long odds. The Alamo was a loss for the Texans, but, it provided time for Sam Houston to achieve victory and has given us legends (true and untrue) that persist to this day.
- Civil War/Revolutionary War Battlefields - if you live on the East Coast, you can probably, wherever you are, get to one of these in an hour's drive. Make it a point today to commit to a visit, learn the history and take your kids. Pack a picnic lunch. Talk about it.
Places I need to visit:
- Ground Zero - I put this in the Pearl Harbor/Gettysburg vein. It is above all others. I haven't been to New York in years (obviously), but this is a trip I am remiss in making.
- Normandy Beach and the Cemeteries at Normandy - another one in this class of must see's.
- Iwo Jima - made more famous by recent books (The excellent Flags of our Fathers) and movies, it is a place I would like to see before I die.
Any recommendations of yours are encouraged and requested. And, if you've been to any of these, what were your thoughts and emotions?