By RCA President Colin Mills

A couple weeks ago, I took a day trip over to
Annapolis.  (As much as I love Reston, I
do escape its borders from time to time!) 
Annapolis is a lovely town, and I enjoyed the boutique shops along Main
Street, the top-notch seafood and Key lime pie at a good old-fashioned crab
shack, the museums and historic buildings, and the beautiful views along the
Bay.  But an unscheduled stop at the World War II Memorial
proved the highlight of my trip, and got me thinking about the idea of creating
something like that in Reston.
Driving down Ritchie Highway, I saw a small sign indicating
a World War II Memorial and scenic overlook. 
Being both a history buff and a fan of scenic views, I figured it might
be worth a few minutes of my time. 
Little did I know just how breathtaking and thought-provoking the
memorial would turn out to be.
The memorial is built into the side of a hill, so you have
no idea what you’re about to experience when you approach from the parking
lot.  The first thing you encounter is
the overlook, a pavilion that provides gorgeous views of the Severn River, the
Naval Academy, and parts of downtown Annapolis. 
I stood there for a few minutes, enjoying the beautiful weather and the sense
of calm that overtook me.  Even though
the memorial is between two busy highways, it’s surprisingly peaceful and
well-protected by the trees and hedges that surround it.
But the memorial itself was what I wanted to see, so I went
down to take a look.  Conceptually, the
layout of the Annapolis memorial is similar to the National World War II
Memorial in DC, with a ring of 48 stone pillars, one for each state in the
Union at the time.  But Maryland’s
memorial contains several additional touches that made it stand out for me.
Outside the ring of pillars is an obelisk, the memorial’s
most striking feature.  The seven-sided
base displays the names of the various branches of the service, while the metal
obelisk forms a five-pointed star.  It
was impressive when I saw it during the day, but I’ll bet it’s even more
attractive at night, when it’s lighted.
In between pillars on the north side of the memorial are a
series of granite panels displaying the names of the Marylanders who lost their
lives in service during World War II. 
The stark simplicity of the names etched in the dark stone reminded me
of the Vietnam Memorial, and provided the same sense of solemn reflection.
My favorite aspect of the memorial is a series of 20 metal
plaques that provide a succinct yet surprisingly thorough overview of the war.  The plaques touch on the major events and
locations of the war (including the “forgotten theater” in China, Burma, and
India), as well as efforts on the homefront and Maryland’s role in preparing
for, supplying, and fighting the war. 
The west and east sides of the memorial contained hidden
gems: a pair of maps depicting the major battles in the eastern and western
hemispheres.   The maps and the plaques combined to tell the
story of the war well.  My daughter
recently studied World War II in school; I’d like to take her to the memorial
to help her put the facts she learned into context.
The center of the memorial did not contain a fountain like
the D.C. memorial; instead, it housed an amphitheater that went down into the
earth.  This is no doubt intended primarily
for presentations and ceremonies, but it’s also a good spot to sit and take in
what you have seen.
I walked away feeling deeply impressed by the memorial.  It was visually striking and majestic without
being overwhelming.  It was cleverly
integrated into its surroundings, with the scenic views only enhancing the
experience.  Despite being in a fairly
busy location, it still provided tranquility and a place for quiet
reflection.  And best of all, it provided
information and fostered a sense of connection with the events it commemorated.
After considering all the things I liked about the memorial,
my next thought was: We should have
something like that in Reston
As the 50th anniversary celebrations this year
have demonstrated, our New Town now has a history of its own.  Now that we are an established community, I
think it’s time for us to start thinking about building monuments of our own
here in Reston.
Of course we have Bronze Bob, and the 9/11
Memorial at Browns Chapel
, and other lesser-known historical markers like
the Dag
Hammarskjold plaque
by the International Center.  But I’d love to see something on a larger
scale, something that could serve as a community gathering place as well as a
monument, something as well-planned and well-executed as the World War II Memorial
in Annapolis.
Obviously, World War II wouldn’t be a suitable subject here,
since Reston didn’t exist at the time. 
But a similarly informative memorial about Reston’s history would be a
terrific companion to the fine exhibits at the Reston Museum.  Or perhaps we could commemorate a historical
event with a connection to Reston.  A
memorial about the civil rights movement would be most appropriate, given Reston’s
history as an open community and our continued commitment to diversity.  A Cold War memorial would be more unorthodox,
but would also be a suitable choice, given Reston’s ties to the CIA and the
defense industry and our proximity to the Nike missile site in Great
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.  Is Reston ready for a large-scale
memorial?  What would be an appropriate
subject for such a memorial?  And where
would be a suitable location for it?

Also, I highly recommend a visit to Annapolis.  It’s only an hour away, and it’s a great
place to spend a day or two if you’re a fan of history, crabs, or funky little
shops.  Now, if we could talk about
bringing some of those funky little shops to Reston…