The Hidden Venues of Military History.

The top 6 hidden museums and memorials in DC & VA.

Tourists and even locals commonly visit the more traditional military museums and memorials located throughout Washington DC and the connecting states. And for good reason. As a country, we have taken extraordinary steps to ensure our military heroes (and families) is not only recognized for their service, but never forgotten. 

Museums are like the quiet car of the world. It’s a place you can come to escape, where there’s authenticity, there’s uniqueness, there’s calm, there’s physicality. Thomas P. Campbell

As a veteran, I have a passion for history, specifically military history. I am blessed to live in a city that offers so many venues honoring the men and women of our armed services. I want to share a few hidden nuggets displaying a unique, and often original exhibits of our great military history. 

The National Museum of the United States Navy

The National Museum of the United States Navy, or U.S. Navy Museum for short, is the flagship museum of the United States Navy and is located in the former Breech Mechanism Shop of the old Naval Gun Factory on the grounds of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. 

The National Museum of the U.S. Navy collects, preserves, displays, and interprets historic naval artifacts and artwork to inform, educate, and inspire naval personnel and the general public.

The Marine Corps Museum

Semper Fidelis – Always Faithful – a phrase synonymous with U.S. Marines and their legendary contributions in every clime and place. Here at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, we’re faithful to preserving and telling the material history of this elite fighting force. 

The National Museum of the Marine Corps is the historical museum of the United States Marine Corps. Located in Triangle, Virginia near MCB Quantico, the museum opened on November 10, 2006, and is now one of the top tourist attractions in the state, drawing over 500,000 people annually.

The Museum already tells more than 200 years of the Corps’ rich history, but we’re certainly not finished yet. In cooperation with the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, we have completed construction and design on an additional 115,000 square feet where we’ll tell more of this amazing story. We’ve already opened the Marine Corps Combat Art Gallery, the Medal of Honor Theater and the Children’s Gallery. Lin Ezell, Museum Director

The Coast Guard Museum

Since its inception in 1790, the USCG has tirelessly answered the call to duty, saving lives, enforcing maritime law, combating terrorism, facilitating commerce and protecting the environment. The vital responsibilities of the USCG are carried out by highly trained men and women who perform these missions with honor, respect, and devotion to duty Coast Guard

Yet, the Coast Guard is the only branch of the armed services without a national museum to celebrate its role in the life of our Nation and to honor the men and women who serve. The public is generally unaware of the scale and scope of the Coast Guard’s missions. We have come to expect the MOST from the Coast Guard, but there is no place for the USCG to share with the public its history, to demonstrate its critical role in protecting us, and to highlight its relevance to the greatest issues facing our Nation.

“Our family is proud to contribute to this important National project and naming the Polar Explorations Gallery in recognition of our father, J.D. Power, III is a real honor.”

Susan J. Curtin
Chair, National Coast Guard Museum Association Board of Directors
Partner, Power Family Enterprises

The National Guard Memorial Museum

The National Guard Memorial Museum is a military museum hosted by the National Guard Educational Foundation. It is located in northwestern Washington, DC, near the National Postal Museum, Union Station and Georgetown University Law Center.

The National Guard’s story transcends all eras of our nation’s history, encompassing millions of citizen-soldiers past and present. Now, more than ever, Guardsmen are being asked to do more, both domestically and abroad. Today there are nearly 470,000 Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen comprising the Army and Air National Guard in 54 states, territories, and the District of Columbia, spanning more than 3,300 American communities.

Members of the National Guard serve both their states and their nation, making the National Guard the only U.S. military service that handles domestic and international missions in a unique state-federal partnership. Honoring their service and heroism for present and future generations is our duty and calling.

Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.
8th & I

Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., also known as “8th & I,” is the oldest active post in the Marine Corps. It was founded by President Thomas Jefferson and Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows, the second commandant of the Marine Corps, in 1801.

Located on the corners of 8th & I Streets in southeast Washington, D.C., the Barracks supports both ceremonial and security missions in the nation’s capital.

The Barracks is home to many nationally recognized units, including the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, the Marine Band, the official Marine Corps Color Guard, and the Marine Corps Body Bearers. It is also the site of the Home of the Commandants, which, along with the Barracks, is a registered national historic landmark.

Enjoy one of the evening parades which are free to the public (Reservations). The parades require reservations and can quickly sell out. You might also choose to see the drill team during one of their Tuesday parades located at the Lincoln Memorial (no reservations required).

Blue Star Museums

Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and museums across America. Each summer since 2010, Blue Star Museums have offered free admission to the nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve. 

Download the Museum Parent Toolkit

Blue Star Families is an all-volunteer military community making unprecedented sacrifices to serve our country. Blue Star Families was founded by military spouses in 2009 to empower these families to thrive as they serve. We’re committed to strengthening military families by connecting them with their neighbors – individuals and organizations – to create vibrant communities of mutual support. We believe we’re all stronger when we take care of one another.

For more information on Blue Star Museums, please see the Frequently Asked Questions. The 2019 Blue Star Museums program began on Saturday, May 18, 2019, Armed Forces Day, and ended on Monday, September 2, 2019, Labor Day.

Let me know of other great military museums and memorials that might otherwise go noticed.

The Image of a Veteran.

“A picture is worth a thousand words” refers to the notion that complex and sometimes multiple ideas can be conveyed by a single still image. As we celebrate the millions of service members and their families this Veteran’s day let us remember the unspoken words related to the complexities of serving our great country.

The very first war photographer was an American. While the particular artist’s name has been lost to history, we do know that he was attached to the U.S. forces fighting in the Mexican War in 1846 and 1847. And since then we use images to tell the stories often too hard to articulate in the spoken word.

Photographer Devin Mitchell, however, created a touching photo project called “The Veteran Art Project” that examines what lies on the other side of the uniform. Using Photoshop, Mitchell has created images of uniformed servicemen and women whose mirrored reflections reveal who they are – and vice versa.

Mitchell explains, “What viewers get to see is unabashed joy and unrelenting pain. There is pride, diversity, and there are Americans free to be whatever. And while the photos are very different, the format is the same. On one side of the mirror, the veteran is in uniform, on the other is an image the veterans choose themselves.

Too often our attention is captured by the heroic recruiting ‘posters’ and images displaying the glamorous side of the military. These images deflect our attention from the realities of long deployments, loss of life, and increasing cases of PTSD.

In image number 130 Craig Millward, an Army veteran, stands with his wife, Deva. It is a story of love and triumph. In the reflection, Craig is in his uniform leaning over the sink. Deva stands behind him with her hand on his arm, supporting her husband. Unlike most images, Deva, who is not a veteran or active-duty soldier, is in both images.

“We had a lot stacked up against us,” Deva said. The image’s message, she said, is that they “beat the system.” When Millward returned from deployment to Afghanistan in 2006, his reintegration process was difficult. It was hard to find a stable job, he was diagnosed with PTSD, and the two were newlyweds. But Millward said his wife’s conviction helped him become the man he is today. See their Interview on CBS.

Mitchell’s goal is to take 10,000 images of veterans and active duty service members from across the country.

As we celebrate our military service member heroes we need to appreciate the images that not only celebrate our countries freedoms, but the visual remembers of what was lost after the end of the welcome back parade.

I am honored to write this blog on behalf of John Bratton. John served our country in war and continues to fight for military families during their transition back into the civilian world. Thanks John for your dedication and service. (John’s Bio)

As an Army Logistics Officer, John served during Desert Storm leading the efforts of 156 men and women to war and back. His desire to continue working with the military community influenced an MBA with a thesis that focused on helping veterans transition from military to civilian life.

The American Dream

The innocence of asking a child, “what do you want to be when you grow up,” maybe be the seed that starts the journey toward the American dream. So many great leaders have described the American Dream, such as Martin Luther King’s famous, I Have a Dream speech that rallied a nation’s desire for equality. Or as Judy Garland puts it, “somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”

So I ask you, what is your American dream?

I am honored and humbled to be featured in six episodes of The American Dream television show. I invite you to share my excitement in discovering the American dream right here in our backyard, Washington DC.

In cities all across the country, the American Dream features 8-12 Power Players of Real Estate to establish them as the “Expert of their Market’ within our show and our network. I have been chosen to represent DC in six upcoming episodes of The American Dream.

The American Dream is a Television show in its 5th year, which started in California and is now streaming and airing in nearly every major city. Our central focus is real estate and the people behind it. The show weaves its storylines between topics like homeownership, lifestyles, entrepreneurship, charity, neighborhood, and family.

“John exemplified the qualities of passion and creativity. He was a perfect match to represent Washington DC in The American Dream.”

Craig Sewing, Host of THe american dream

Craig Sewing, host of The American Dream, explains, “The American Dream, a national cable talk show, is different from other programs. Our mission strays away from all negative viewpoints often found in the media, instead choosing to focus on educating, empowering, and engaging with viewers to help achieve personal American Dreams through subjects that include real estate, finance, and entrepreneurial mindset.”

Over the next few weeks, I will begin shooting the first few episodes, which will reflect my overall storyline of relationships, history, and community. The opportunity to bring DC’s culture, entertainment, and incredible neighborhood history to a national state is both exciting and humbling.

My 20 plus years in the DC, Virginia, and Maryland real estate market have brought thousands of new relationships and the chance to support the building of neighborhoods and the healthy growth of our city. I am blessed to work and live in the heart of Capital Hill. My home is surrounded by historical landmarks, incredible eateries, and exposure to some of the city’s most relished residential properties.

As a veteran, I will dedicate an episode to raise the awareness of our military service members as they transition from base-to-base throughout their careers. As one active duty spouse reflected, “I have a default master’s degree in logistics from moving my family ten times in the past 20 years.” I have had the honor to work with both active duty and veteran families to navigate the VA loan process resulting in faster closings and reduced upfront fees.

Join me in this journey of the American dream as we discover the sights and sounds of our local community and city. I want to thank all of my clients (friends) and family who have supported my dream of becoming a person of incredible passion, love, and integrity.

What is my American Dream? Well, stay tuned and follow me over the next year on The American Dream as I share my story with a city I love dearly.

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What you need to apply for a VA home loan.

Like most home loans, you will be required to fill out a bunch of paperwork in order to apply for a VA loan. Everything from your personal information to the documentation of your finances will need to be submitted and reviewed.

If you don’t want to delay your application and slow down the process, it’s important that you make sure to submit everything the lender needs as soon as possible. So, to help you prepare and be organized, we’ve put together this overview of what you need to apply for a VA home loan.

Military Service Information

One of the first steps to getting a VA home loan is documenting and providing proof your military service. You cannot get a VA loan unless you meet the proper service requirements.

Certificate of Eligibility

This document is one of the first that your lender will need. You can either request it yourself or your lender can request it for you. Having your lender request it is usually faster and easier.


You will also need a copy of this form if you are no longer in the military. It will help verify your service history and be used in conjunction with your Certificate of Eligibility (COE).

Statement of Service

If you are still active duty, your commanding officer will need to sign a statement of service. This letter must include your full name, social security number, birthdate, the date you entered active duty, any lost time, and the name of the command. And, of course, your commanding officer’s signature.

Personal Information

You should automatically know most of this information without needing to look it up. However, some information, like your prior addresses and maybe even your social security number, may require you to put in more time to make sure it’s accurate.

Prior Addresses

You will need to know and provide the address of everywhere you’ve lived during the past two years. Make sure you don’t leave any place out, even if you only lived there for a month or two!

Social Security Numbers

If you have yours memorized, great! If not, make sure you look it up before your application. In addition, if you will have a co-borrower on your loan, like your spouse, you will need to know their social security number as well.

Financial Information

This portion of the process is one of the most involved parts of applying for a VA mortgage loan, as it has the most documents you will need to gather. It includes everything from income verification and employment to related debts.

W2 Forms

You will need to find and submit your W2s for the past two years. These forms will be used to verify your income and make sure it’s either been consistent or has improved year to year.

Leave & Earnings Statement

Your latest leave and earnings statement (LES) will show the lender two important things: (1) proof of income and (2) your expiration of term of service (ETS). If your ETS is within the next 12 months, you will need to provide further documentation.

If you have already left service, instead of an LES, you will be required to submit your most recent pay stubs for the last 30 days, or documentation of any disability or retirement income.

Childcare Costs

If you have children, most lenders require a written childcare statement. This should outline how much you spend each month on childcare and, if applicable, how much you pay in child support.

If you do not have any childcare expenses, you will still need to declare this fact on the statement and include an explanation for why you don’t have these expenses.

Tax Returns

If you’d like to include any self-employment or rental income, or if more than a quarter of your income comes from bonuses, commissions, or side businesses, you will need to submit your two most recent federal income tax forms.

Bank Statements

Because mortgages usually come with closing costs, even VA mortgages, your lender may require you to provide your banks statements for the past 60 days to make sure you’ll be able to cover these expenses. When submitting these statements, make sure you include any blank pages, as well.

Job History

Lenders may also want to know your job history for the past two years. As part of this information, you will need to provide the name of each employer, as well as their address, phone number, and dates of employment.

Credit History

An important part of any mortgage application is your credit history. While the VA does not have a minimum credit score requirements, some lenders do. In addition, all lenders will be looking at your overall credit history to make sure you seem like a good credit risk.

Proof of Errors

If there are errors on your credit report that haven’t been removed yet, you will need to submit proof of these errors to your lender.

Explanation of Late Payments

If your credit report shows any late payments, it doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot get a VA loan. However, your lender will likely require a written explanation for these late payments. Basically, lenders want to be confident you’ll make your loan payments on time, and that any prior late payments were due to extenuating circumstances.

Bankruptcy & Discharge Documents

If you’ve ever declared bankruptcy, you will need to provide these documents, in addition to the documents showing that your bankruptcy was discharged and you are no longer under any financial obligations.

Start Your Application

While this list doesn’t cover absolutely everything you’ll need to get a VA Loan, it does cover what you’ll need to start the process.

Once you’ve gathered all of the documents and information listed above, you’re ready to find your perfect lender, start the search for your dream home, and dive into the actual application process. Because of your preparation, you can expect the process to be hassle- and headache-free.