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What Is the U.S. Navy Memorial?

Artifacts from the USS Maine are at the U.S. Navy Memorial.
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  • Written By: Steve R.
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  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2014
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Located on Pennsylvania Avenue across from the National Archives in Washington D.C., the U.S. Navy Memorial pays homage to the past, present, and future Sea Service men and women. The memorial offers visitors a chance to view exhibits and artifacts related to maritime history. The memorial was authorized by Congress in 1980. Built with private funds, the memorial was dedicated in 1987.

The U.S. Navy Memorial contains a Memorial Plaza, highlighted by the bronze statue The Lone Sailor. Designed by the artist Stanly Bleifield, a Navy veteran of World War II, the sculpture depicts a young U.S. Navy bluejacket, staring into the distance. The statue is composed of artifacts from eight U.S. Navy ships including USS Constitution, also known as "Old Ironsides," and USS Maine.

Another bronze statue by Bleifeld adorns the Memorial Plaza. Homecoming portrays a returning sailor being greeted happily by his wife and child. Bleifeld was inspired to design the statue after visiting various Navy ports and seeing firsthand Navy personnel being welcomed home by family after oversea deployments.

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A Commemorative Plaque Wall at the memorial honors the service of Navy ships, squadrons, and servicemen. More than 400 plaques, sponsored by individuals and groups, are on permanent display on the outdoor wall. Plaques contain pictures, text, group insignias, logos, and other graphics. The wall also contains notable quotes from famous men in U.S. Navy history including John Paul Jones and David Farragut. Individuals and groups may sponsor a plaque for a donation of $3,000 (USD). Donations are used to promote the mission of the U.S. Navy Memorial.

A Naval Heritage Center is located next to the memorial. The center is an impressive research and archive facility where staff, volunteers, and interns provide assistance to visitors and respond to e-mail inquiries. A library boasts more than 1,000 books and titles, as well as 30,000 photographs and 1,500 voice entries. The Voices of the Navy Memorial Collection comprises original oral and written descriptions of naval service by sea veterans. Navy Log kiosks allow visitors to find information about Sea Service personnel and view service records.

Admiral Arleigh Burke, a Navy war hero and former chief of naval operations, spearheaded a group in 1977 to begin the process of creating a maritime memorial. Burke and his Navy contemporaries established a non-profit organization, the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation, for that purpose. Congress approved the private funding of a memorial in 1980 in the District of Columbia on Pennsylvania Avenue, which connects the U.S. Capitol and White House. Ground was broken for the memorial in 1985.

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