- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2014

Visitors came from near and far Monday to celebrate Memorial Day in the nation’s capital — and some came from much farther away than others.

Fang Wong’s family traveled from Beijing to visit her and see America, and the holiday weekend’s festivities offered the perfect opportunity to fulfill both goals.

“I plan on seeing the whole city and all of the monuments,” said Ms. Wong, a student from Rochester, N.Y. “But I really want to see the White House, where [President] Obama lives. I read somewhere that he was walking through the National Mall the other day, and I am hoping he will do it again.”

Meanwhile, married couple Elizabeth and Tony Underhill, who hail from the English town of Nuneaton in the county Warwickshire, marked their fourth Memorial Day in Washington, D.C.

When they first arrived here in 2008, the Underhills were unaware of the Memorial Day holiday, but they were impressed by what the city offered.

“We come every year to visit the museums, see Rolling Thunder and the parade,” Mrs. Underhill said. “We don’t have any free museums in the U.K., so we especially like that they’re here.”

SEE ALSO: At Arlington, Obama pledges to care for veterans

Dressed in civilian attire from the 1860s, husband-and-wife team Denis and Karen Lyddane of Warrenton, Va., marched with the Unit 41 Irish Brigade during the National Memorial Day Parade. A member of the Daughters of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, Ms. Lyddane wore an antique brooch, earrings, parasol and pin. Mr. Lyddane wore a World War II medal, borrowed from his father who now lives in a nursing home.

“I asked him, ‘Well, I’m going in the Memorial Day parade, would you like to have your medal in the parade?’ And he got all excited,” Mr. Lyddane said of his father. “I decided to wear it even though it’s not period-correct.”

Freshly reopened after undergoing a three-year, post-earthquake repair, the Washington Monument stunned onlookers as they crossed the Mall, despite its elevator problems. Bicyclists and Segway riders were attracted to the path leading to the Lincoln Memorial. And food trucks lined up on 14th and Jefferson streets in Northwest offering a wide array of dining choices.

But the Mall’s war memorials were the main attraction for visitors Monday.

Sheila Veit of St. Petersburg, Florida, said there is no better day than Memorial Day for taking in the monuments dedicated to the country’s defenders.

“You actually get to see the veterans and talk to them,” Ms. Veit said. “Seeing the World War II veteran honored at the concert was also great, and I really appreciated having them there.”

Dan Petruchik, 66, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., served in the Army in logistics command in Europe during Vietnam. He said he always asks himself how he go so lucky going to Europe instead of Vietnam. This Memorial Day, he said he’s “celebrating life.”

“I had a lot of friends who died in Vietnam and so it’s always a sacred place in my heart,” Mr. Petruchik said. “I don’t know how I got out of not going to Vietnam. I think about that all the time. God wanted me to go somewhere else I guess.”

Local resident Pauline Imbrigato had hoped to find her father’s name among those etched into the World War II Memorial.

“He served in an all-black battalion, but we had some trouble finding his name,” Ms. Imbrigato said. “We’re hoping to find out why he wasn’t included and make sure he is listed among the veterans.”

Despite not being able to locate her father’s name, she was still moved by the memorial’s tribute.

“People are here paying homage to their relatives,” Ms. Imbrigato said. “They had a lot of wreaths and it was beautiful. I think honoring those who served is a great way to celebrate today.”

For Gabriella Schlesinger of New London, Connecticut, the Memorial Day festivities gave her a chance to marvel at the city.

“I am always extremely impressed at its treasure trove of museums and history, besides the politics,” Ms. Schlesinger said. “It has a rich multicultural population and I enjoy seeing the diversity.”

This year the AAA auto club estimated that at least 2.7 million people would travel to and from the District, Maryland and Virginia this holiday weekend.

Ms. Schlesinger said she is not put off by the large numbers of visitors who flock to Washington, D.C., this time of year.

“I plan on coming back again to spend time in all of D.C.’s different areas,” she said. “Washington has a lot to offer even though it takes a lot of flak.”

Meghan Drake contributed to this report.

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