U.S. Military Tour's Focus; Cathedral Highlights War Heroes of History

Article excerpt

Byline: Liz Essley, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Shrapnel, swords and bayonets crown Christ's head in the small side chapel, tucked between the expansive Gothic nave and another small room, the Children's Chapel. Stained-glass figures of war heroes - from Richard the Lion-Hearted to Nathan Hale - look down on Linda Strating as she addresses her tour group on its last stop, the War Memorial Chapel of Washington National Cathedral.

I think it's so appropriate that the soldiers are protecting the children. Even the way [the builders] juxtaposed everything. .. Everything has a meaning, she says

It was this meaning that inspired Ms. Strating, a volunteer docent at the cathedral, to craft the military-themed tour called Service and Sacrifice.

The Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul in Northwest functions as a church and place of prayer for the nation. It is the site for presidential funerals and memorial services for famous Americans - including Presidents Reagan and Ford and in May, former Rep. Jack Kemp. Also, every president since Mr. Reagan - with the exception of Bill Clinton - has attended Inauguration Day services there.

Ms. Strating started giving the Service and Sacrifice tours in May and has trained about seven other docents to give them as well. They are available upon request.

The people that built this place had that [military theme] in their minds. I'm really just picking it up and showing it to people, she says.

Ms. Strating, whose father was an Air Force colonel and Korean War veteran, found her first inspiration for the tour in the cathedral's large stained-glass window honoring the Air Force. Building on her docent training and some of her own research, she created the hourlong tour that seeks to honor soldiers and the military.

The Washington National Cathedral is the sixth-largest cathedral in the world. Its first stone was laid in 1907, with President Theodore Roosevelt presiding. Two world wars and the Great Depression halted construction temporarily. The last stone was laid with in 1990 with President George H.W. Bush in attendance. It was built stone upon stone, with no structural steel, using the same methods medieval workers used. The only difference was help from cranes and trucks. Some plaques remain blank for future generations to commemorate future leaders and heroes.

The Service and Sacrifice tour highlights the cathedral's military connections in its history, sculptures, carvings and needlepoint kneelers. …