A few weeks ago we had an opportunity to journey to Washington D.C. and Virginia to visit with some relatives: sister, niece, nephew, grand niece and grand nephew. My sister recently relocated to Virginia and my Nephew, Rick, Lt. Col. US Army Retired, works in D.C. Rick had arranged a tour of the Pentagon for us as well as a visit to the Marine Corps Museum where I had never been. Unfortunately, due to the Government shutdown, organized tours of the Pentagon had been cancelled and the USMC Museum was closed.

Somewhat of a disappointment on the Museum being unavailable to us but the Pentagon tour was made possible by Rick since he has access and was able to provide us with access and a “private” tour. This was probably better than the organized public tour as Rick worked at the facility for several years, is well versed in it’s layout, organization, history and the very interesting points about this facility. The entire tour was wonderful and very informative to us. One of the most interesting stops was in the wing where the terrorist plane hit during 9-11. As you may recall, it was at 9:37 on the morning of September 11th, 2001 that American Airlines flight 77 deliberately crashed into the Pentagon. Everyone on board that plane as well as 125 people in the building were killed. Although some 20 percent of the building was affected, other areas were kept open and operating and the business of our nation’s defense went on. Panels on the left and right walls of the memorial represent the medals awarded to the casualties and panels on the back wall contain the names of the victims. The Pentagon has done a marvelous job of dedicating that section to those who lost their lives on that day, including a very detailed diagram of how the plane hit as well as the creation of the memorial Pentagon Chapel.

And of course the Marine Corridor was of special interest to me. For those who may not be aware, The United States Marine Corps was founded in Tun Tavern (Philadelphia) on 10 November 1775. Then in 1829, President Jackson attempted to abolish the Marine Corps because he didn’t see the justification to have two land-based infantry forces within the US. For the next five years, the Commandant of the Marine Corps debated Jackson’s abolishment desires and in 1834 the Marine Corps was placed under the Department of the Navy and given the assignment as the amphibious assault force. Today, the Marine Corps mission continues to be to conduct amphibious assaults to seize, occupy and defend advanced naval bases.

There is so much more to see and experience at the Pentagon and I would encourage anyone who has not had the opportunity to visit The Headquarters of the Department of Defense to make an effort to do so. A few interesting facts about this structure are as follows:

Construction began: September 11, 1941
Construction completed: January 15, 1943
Land area: 583 acres
Floor space: 6,636,630 sq. ft.
Total length of corridors: 17.5 miles
Length of each outer wall: 921 feet
131 Stairways 284 Restrooms
19 Sets of Escalators 691 Drinking Fountains
16,250 Light Fixtures 7,754 Windows

Now, as I mentioned above, we had planned to visit the Marine Corps Museum the following day but due to the Government Shutdown, that facility was closed. The thought crossed my mind to follow the lead of our WW II veterans who recently stormed the WW II memorial in Washington, but after due consideration I came to the conclusion that this would not play well. So, we instead had a grand tour of The Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Va. Again, because of Rick’s status we were able to get on the base. This of course brought back many fond (and perhaps some not-so-fond) memories of my time spent there some 50+ years ago. We were able to drive through the base, stop by Camp Barrett, home of The Basic School that is the training facility for newly commissioned officers in the Marine Corps. It is here that the new officers are sent to learn the art and science of being an Officer of the Marines. During the 26 weeks of TBS, new officers are given extensive classroom, field, and practical application training on subjects ranging from weapons and tactics toleadership and protocol. At the completion of TBS, the Officer may attend one or more additional schools prior to being assigned to a unit in the Fleet Marine Force. I think it is safe to say that my attendance at TBS in Quantico, although having finished basic training prior to arriving there, is where I actually “grew up” to become a Marine Officer!

Our tour also included a trip to the “downtown” area of Quantico that I remembered well, from the Amtrak train station where I fondly remember my first arrival at the Marine Corps Base, Quantico, to the uniform shops, small stores, barber shops, restaurants and bars along Potomac Avenue. Of course I “needed” to buy a few souvenirs while there.

Before leaving Quantico we did get a chance to visit the course and pro shop at the Marine Corps Medal of Honor Golf Course. No time to play the course but one should always leave something for the next trip!

Finally, our trip included a visit to Fredericksburg, VA to see my sister’s new home where she recently relocated from the Boston Area. She has found a lovely community and is now close by her son, daughter-in law and grand kids. We are wishing her well and looking forward to our next trip South!

Semper Fi, thanks for reading and look for more of “Pops Perspective” in the coming months.