There are times when you enter a place that all other thought ceases for the duration of your visit. So it was with Mobile, AL.
We didn’t explore the city. Cities aren’t fascinating to us as they are to others. Instead we look for things that have greater meaning. We found a place where profound thought is required of visitors. We entered the Battleship Memorial Park.
Our fathers were both veterans. Mine fought during the WWII days. BJ’s dad was career Navy. BJ is a veteran herself. As a result, this park held more than casual interest for us.
At the entrance to the park we were greeted by a Navy fighter jet landing on the entrance sign. Anchor chains acted to cordon off the grounds on either side of the drive as we went in to explore. Everywhere we looked were exhibits of military war machines.
Tanks stood guard as planes readied for take-off. Helicopters waited for pilots to begin the warm-up checklists. A vintage diesel submarine sat in its dock sling at the back of the grounds as if the refitting crew had just walked away from the job for lunch.
Dominating the entire park was the U.S.S. Alabama anchored at dockside. For the price of admission, we could tour the veteran ship that had seen so many years of hard and valiant service. Permanent gangways spanned the journey from present to past in a few short yards.
The area that caught our attention as much or more than any was the Veteran Memorial Park within that of the U.S.S. Alabama. There is one large bronze memorial marker for the veterans who fought in WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. There is also a bronze plaque dedicated to the canine corps and the dogs that have died in combat. The Avenue of Flags surrounds those markers. The flags represent the wars and the countries of all our allies who fought in them.
Standing in that park, looking at the symbols of our military history was humbling in many ways. It’s disheartening to know that we must have a military force that stands ready to defend us at all times. On the other hand, it’s humbling to know that so many young men and women have volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way for us all.
Battleship Memorial Park exemplifies that struggle in a most visible way. I doubt if anyone could go there and spend some time moving among the displays, or inside the museum, and not come away with profound thoughts of scenarios they never thought possible.
If you find yourself with a stopover in Mobile, take the time to go east on I-10 to Battleship Memorial Park. Walk around the grounds; take the tour of the U.S.S. Alabama. Find in yourself the respect our history deserves as well as the respect due those who secured it and our future.