My mother, Dorothea Gagliardi James, enlisted in one of the first groups of WACs in the Army Air Corp. in WWII. She travelled from her home in Philadelphia to military bases in five different states and taught young men aircraft identification before they were sent to fight in Europe. At the end of the war, in Fresno California, she met and married my father, Jake. She left the service as a Staff Sergeant and was always proud of her time in the military serving her country.

About twenty years ago I found out about a drive to raise funds for a memorial in Washington D.C. to honor women who had participated in any war, from the American Revolution to today, and in any capacity-nurse, soldier etc. I volunteered and helped raise money in the Chicago area and made a significant personal gift with help my old firm, USG Corporation.

At the entrance to Arlington Cemetery, is the Women’s Memorial. It is a short subway ride from downtown DC and a short walk from the Kennedy Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Behind it are what seem to be, miles of, endless white headstones which make up the bulk of Arlington Cemetery. Any trip to our nation’s capital should include a visit to this area.

The Women’s Memorial has a computer registry where you can view a photo and a brief history of some of the three million women who have served our country. They also have exhibits that show military uniforms over the decades and highlight different stories or themes. When we visited, there was a tribute to the 7,000 fallen warriors who have given their lives in our more recent wars.

They also were premiering a documentary film called The Hello Girls. It tells the story of ¬†two hundred female AT&T operators who volunteered to move to France when the U.S. entered World War I. They served as phone operators in the front lines and at military headquarters. Our head commander, General Pershing, said they helped win that war. Some died for their country. One more example of the often, untold role of women in our nation’s history.

Recently, my wife and I took my son, Mike and grandson, Connor to DC. Even a seventeen year old was impressed with everything we saw in Arlington and Washington DC. From printing money at the Bureau of Engraving to the huge Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport to the Supreme Court and Congress, DC is great and every government building and museum is Free!

So add Washington DC to your vacation list especially for teenagers. It is far more valuable for a life learning lesson or two than Disney World!

And while in DC, check out the Women’s Memorial. It is amazing what you can learn.