Crowds Gawk at War Weapons on Washington Mall
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Crowds of onlookers descended on the National Mall Thursday to see weapons of war hauled in for this weekend’s National Victory Tribute to Persian Gulf War veterans.
An imposing assemblage of helicopters, tanks and warplanes presented an eerie picture framed by the U.S. Capitol, Washington Monument and the museums filled with national treasures.
As workers scurried with last-minute preparations for Saturday’s $5.2 million celebration, thousands poured onto the grassy mall. They encircled tanks, warplanes and helicopters. Some gawked while others climbed onto or into the machines.
″This is to keep me from falling out if the pilot makes a sudden turn one way or another,″ Air Force T. Sgt. Neil Hodgson told onlookers as he grabbed onto a long leather strap - something akin to a seat belt - protruding from the MH-60 Pavehawk rescue helicopter he used during the war.
Men and women in their Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine uniforms mingled freely with men, women and children who preferred to tarry there, under threatening skies, rather than venture inside art and natural history museums.
″I’m tired of hearing people gripe about glamorizing these weapons of war and destruction,″ said Bryan Tiplady of Silver Spring, Md. ″There’s nothing wrong with people seeing this, with our kids learning about war.″
″This will be good for my son because he’s in the Young Marines and he’ll get a lot out of this,″ Martha Davis, who lives in the nation’s capital, chipped in.
An aura of excitement hung over the grounds as people queued up at one point to walk through one of the Marine Corps’ H-4GE ″Blue Knights″ helicopter gunships. Less than a hundred feet away, people moved toward an AV- 8B Harrier warplane standing majestically on a platform. Just across a dirt trail used by joggers, three cruise missiles were pointed menacingly in the direction of the Washington Monument.
″The Patriots are on the way,″ an Air Force sergeant hollered to a couple of boys questioning their whereabouts.
″The patriotism here is really fantastic compared to what you saw after Vietnam,″ said Army Sgt. Mark Beck of Council Bluffs, Iowa, taking time out from his demonstration of an Army rescue helicopter.