Wounded GIs visit heart of democracy

May 6, 2008

WASHINGTON – Each evening, tourists that pack the U.S. Capitol Rotunda during the day are long gone, leaving only dusk’s light to play on the sculptures and paintings beneath the dome that soars 180 feet high, a symbol of American freedom.

rtr1v139.jpgOne night last week, the silence was broken by a guide giving a tour to two wounded U.S. soldiers, one in a wheelchair, the other with a cane.

As they passed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and neared the Rotunda, the guide told the wounded warriors: “Don’t look up! Do not look up!”

The guide pushed the wheelchair onto the edge of the Rotunda floor, ran ahead, pivoted and raised a pocket-sized camera to his eye.

“Now look up!” he said, seeking to get the soldiers to focus on the dome.

As he snapped their picture, the guide said: “This is it. This is the symbol of democracy. Your first look at it. You’ll have a picture of it your whole lives. This is why you went to war.”

The two soldiers said nothing, giving no hint to their thoughts about the unpopular war.

Minutes later, Democratic leaders left Pelosi’s office, equally silent on whether they had agreed on details of legislation to fund the 5-year-old Iraq war for several more months and whether to put strings on the money in an attempt to eventually end the fighting.

The war has already been a hot topic of debate in the congressional and presidential campaigns, along with competing bills on Capitol Hill to take better care of veterans.   

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Capitol Rotunda)

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