(Washington, D.C.) -- For more than two centuries, the men and women of America’s armed forces have served with distinction and valor to protect the freedoms we enjoy today. Following World War I, Armistice Day was established to honor those who served in that global conflict. In 1954, Congress passed legislation officially designating Armistice Day as a day to recognize all of our veterans, renaming it Veterans Day.
This Veterans Day, honor those who wore our nation’s uniform by visiting a Civil War battlefield, national cemetery or historic site. These hallowed grounds offer a tangible link to America’s past and a lasting tribute to the service of millions of men and women by providing a solemn sanctuary to truly reflect on their service and sacrifice. The Civil War Trust suggests the following destinations for Veterans Day 2013:
Cedar Creek & Belle Grove National Historical Park, Virginia
Cedar Creek & Bell Grove NHP, located in the Shenandoah Valley, includes within its boundaries the site of the Battle of Cedar Creek. This battle was a decisive defeat for the South, and effectively ended Confederate dominance valley. The park offers self-guided battlefield tours, including driving tours, enabling visitors to follow in the footsteps of the October 19, 1864, engagement. On Veterans Day weekend, Cedar Creek & Belle Grove NHP, along with national parks across the country, will waive entrance fees.
Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania
Gettysburg’s Soldiers’ National Cemetery is preparing for the commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address. This summer saw the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, a three-day fight resulting in the highest casualty rate of any Civil War battle. The national cemetery now serves as the final resting place for more than 3,500 soldiers who fell during the battle.
Glorieta Battlefield, Pecos National Historical Park, New Mexico
Civil War battlefields are not exclusive to the Mid-Atlantic and Deep South. Preserved within the confines of Pecos NHP, Apache Canyon and Pigeon’s Ranch were the sites of significant action between Confederate and Union volunteer forces in March 1862. Glorieta is considered the high water mark of Confederate ambitious in the Far West. The park also includes Kozlowski’s Ranch, which was occupied by Federal troops.
United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
Predating Arlington National Cemetery as one of the nation’s oldest national cemeteries, the United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home, located in Washington, D.C., is the final resting place for more than 14,000 veterans, many of whom fought in the American Civil War. Interred service members include 21 Medal of Honor recipients and Maj. Gen. John Logan, who commanded the Army of the Tennessee during the Civil War.
Andersonville National Historic Site, Georgia
The site of the notorious Camp Sumter military prison camp during the Civil War, Andersonville NHS now also honors all American prisoners of war. Visitors will experience the “Avenue of Flags” display on Veterans Day at the historic Civil War prison site. Only flown five times a year, these flags adorn the path from the entrance gate to the park rostrum.
Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site, Kentucky
Consistently cited as one of the top destinations for Civil War enthusiasts – including a recent USA TODAY article about this pristine battlefield park – Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site protects the largest and most important battleground in the Bluegrass State. The trails at Perryville provide visitors with some of the nation’s best and most historic hiking.
These six recommendations are only a small fraction of the more than 600 sites on the Civil War Discovery Trail, a network of historic sites spanning 32 states, the District of Columbia and three international destinations. The Discovery Trail website provides an excellent, interactive resource in planning visits this Veterans Day and beyond. Explore Civil War history and plan your next trip online at www.civilwar.org/cwdt.
The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its goal is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War sites and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds through education and heritage tourism. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 36,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states. Please visit the Trust’s website at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.