Sunday, December 09, 2012

Fort Ward and Quantico

We decided to break up our ride home into palatable chunks, stopping for adventures all along the way in order to keep the kids from losing it in the backseat. Andrew had originally wanted to go back into DC to see a few more things but Blake and Amanda helped me convince overly-optimistic Andrew that doing so would be insane. Weekend traffic in DC is pretty light. Weekday traffic, on the other hand, is not. Instead we drove just down the street to see the Fort Ward park, our very first Civil War site.

It was such a nice day—we were so hot we were peeling off sweaters. This made me very happy. I prefer sunshine to snow any day of the year (including Christmas).

The original fort wall could be seen in various places in the park—pretty much anywhere an earthen embankment stood was an original fort wall.

One area, though, had been fixed up a bit and was dressed up with cannons and fancy things like that.

Unfortunately the museum at the park was closed so all the storage rooms of the fort were closed, too.

If you're going to visit state parks in these parts, don't go a Monday—they always seem to be closed on Mondays. We were free to wander around on our own, though, which we did.


We found some condemned cannon stands outside of the fort. Benjamin thought they were interesting.

When we were feeling confident that we had waited out the bad traffic, we bid Alexandria farewell and hit the road, stopping just a little while later in Quantico to visit the National Museum of the Marine Corps. We had seen it all lit up on our way into Alexandria and had wondered what it was. When we found out we weren't that excited but decided to stop there anyway since the architecture was neat and because it was free.

Poor little Benjamin kept trying to nap in the van. We kept disturbing him...but doesn't he look cozy? I love how he holds onto the sides of his car seat.

Anyway, here's the museum:

It juts out into the skyline, obviously visible from the highway, and is quite impressive when it's all lit up.


A man, who was just coming in to work for the day, asked us if he could take our picture altogether. We let him (because we're nice like that).

"What did you think of the museum?" he asked.

"Oh, we haven't been inside yet," we told him.

"Alright—you'll enjoy it," he said. "And when you leave you'll be thinking, 'That was pretty neat!'"

He left us and bustled off to work. Andrew and I looked at each other skeptically—it was a museum...about marines. How cool could it be?

It was awesome.

We'd missed out on the Air and Space Museum, which both Andrew and Rachel had wanted to visit in DC, but as luck would have it the lobby was filled with helicopters and airplanes.

The lobby also had these little cut-out boards that we had fun with.

The rest of the museum was just as kid friendly...or at least most of the rest of the museum was just as kid friendly. The museum first showed us "The Making of the Marine" where you could stand and be yelled at by a drill sergeant (not a real one, of course, but a recording) and see how boot camp is. I made the mistake of walking into one of the drill sergeant booths and my first thought was, "I want my mommy." 

That's just one of the dozens hundreds of reasons I'm not in the military.

The rest of the museum was a walk through history. We started out in colonial-ish times, learning how to tie ships to port...

Wearing three-cornered hats...


...And doing a bit of fishing.

We later got a uniform upgrade. I believe we'd marched clear from the first battalion of marines (in 1775) clear into the Civil War Era (1860s). I believe these costumes are from the Civil War, but I can't quite remember...

By the way, they were using submarines in the civil war. I didn't know that—they could only be submerged for about half an hour and weren't really incredibly effective, but still! I can't imagine agreeing to be submerged in a modern submarine let alone in a submarine not equipped with anything but a self-propelled motor in the 1860s!

Andrew and I were surprised at how entangled we were internationally from way back in the 1800s, maybe even earlier. I mean, we sing "From the shores of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli" in the Marine's Hymn but I never realized we were actually there. We were everywhere.

We took a little walk through WWI...


...Before we stopped at Chesty's Corner where we tried on more uniforms, coloured, played with army men, and could have read some stories (but didn't).

 After we'd played we ambled through WWII.

The crowning cherry of the whole WWII exhibit was the flag that was raised at Iwo Jima.

I never really pictured the Korean War as an urban war in my mind. But I guess it was...

The Korean War exhibit was chilling. Literally. There was a room set up as a battle reenactment—cold air was blowing around us and gun shots were being "fired" and explosions were going off left and right. The girls were terrified.


The girls were very happy to leave that room. Had I believed in the slightest that it was real, I would have been running for the exit myself. Even though I knew it was fake it still got my heart rate up!

We went from Korea to Vietnam and got to go into an amphibious vehicle.

So many exhibits startled us—when Rachel saw the dog behind that rickety fence she stopped dead in her tracks. She giggled at herself when she realized it was only an exhibit but she was ready to make a run for it in case it wasn't.

This guy scared me:

We just rounded a corner and there he was, staring us down.

The Vietnam exhibit also had a battle reenactment area, only this time it was hot. We had to walk through a plane to get into the battle—the plane was "on" and the floor was vibrating, we could hear the gunshots "outside." Rachel froze solid. We played tug-of-war for a bit while I tried to inch her out of the plane but eventually Andrew just left Miriam sitting in her stroller, all alone, with guns going off all around her, in order to carry Rachel through the exhibit.

He put Rachel down so that he could finish pushing Miriam to the exit and Rachel dashed for the door and started pounding on it. She was too scared to even try to open it. Poor Miriam was also pretty shell-shocked.

 It was sad...and funny...all at the same time.

Here's Rachel with a piece of the Twin Towers. The subject of 9/11 really upsets her because when I was explaining it to her this year I told her that 9/11 is the reason our country is "still" at war today. She hadn't realized that war wasn't just something of the past before then.

After we were back in the car I asked the girls what they had learned.

Rachel piped out, "I learned that I am never going to be in a war!"


  1. That museum looks amazing!! I hope we can go some day.

  2. I agree with Bridget! Now I want to take my kids to Washington :)

  3. Wouldn't it be wonderful if ALL children in the whole world would decide to never be in a war, and stay true to that commitment their whole lives? "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!"