Friday we officially finished up all the required training for my first post in the Foreign Service.  Holy crap.

We leave DC next week and start our road trip west so the next couple of days are going to be filled with goodbyes.  Friday night we said goodbye to the Maine Avenue Fish Market and to our old neighborhood.  After a tasty dinner of crab soup, freshly fried shrimp, and homemade baked beans, I walked from the market uptown to the hotel through my favorite monuments.  It was a gorgeous night, and while there were a bunch of tourist groups loitering around the monuments and along the now-under-construction-reflecting pool, I managed to avoid most of the obnoxious groups.

My favorite memorial, the generally un-loved Korean War memorial, was pretty quiet so I got to have the full experience. I know a lot of people who really dislike the Korean War memorial.  I’ve heard critics say that it’s too busy and that it doesn’t “make sense” as a single piece of artwork.  I agree completely, but that’s what I like about it.  I think it quite accurately reflects that the war was chaotic and that our involvement was complicated and confusing at best. I love that as you walk up the incline and look at the faces in the granite you see both yourself and the statues of the soldiers behind you reflected in the stone.  For me, that’s the part that makes it seem real:  the image of my face sandwiched between the faces of men and women who died during the conflict.  It always makes me think that had I been alive during those years that could have been me.

After spending about half an hour there, I made my way over to the Vietnam memorial, my other favorite on the Mall.  I have such a love/hate relationship with the Vietnam memorial.  On the one hand, I love its simplicity and starkness.  I love that the names of the Americans who gave their lives are really the focal point of the memorial.  But I hate that we had to build such a monument.  I hate thinking about the families of the soldiers who died there and the lives they didn’t get to have.

All the war memorials make me that much more aware of how important diplomacy is in the world.  Could diplomacy alone have prevented the Korean War?  Vietnam?  Iraq?  I don’t know.  But I do think that using peaceful means to try to solve conflicts is a good way to minimize armed confrontations and I am really hope I can do a good job representing America in Mexico and in all of my future posts.