May 25, 2014 – By the end of this decade, 96 percent of America’s more than 20 million veterans will live within 75 miles of a national cemetery – the result of the largest expansion of the veterans’ cemetery system since the Civil War, according to Bradley Phillips, director of the National Cemetery Administration’s nine-state western region
Introduced by cemetery Director Douglas Ledbetter, Phillips was guest speaker at Miramar National Cemetery’s third annual Veterans Memorial Service. More than 400 active-duty military, veterans and their families, and members of the public attended the event, sponsored by the Miramar National Cemetery Support Foundation.
Since 1992, the NCA has built 18 new cemeteries, and plans to open another 18 sites by 2020, Phillips said.Among them will be cemeteries in Los Angeles and Alameda that will offer only columbarium niches for cremated remains.
In a very real sense, Phillips said, every day is Memorial Day at our national cemeteries. “As we gather in the shadows of generations of heroes, let us pray for peace among nations, and in the hearts and homes of the families who have lost loved ones in service to our nation. Let us make a point to thank the veterans in our lives for their service and sacrifice, and let us do what we can do to support the men and women in uniform today.”
Dennis A. Schoville, Foundation President and CEO, welcomed the audience and guests, and noted the passing in February of the Foundation’s previous leader, Dr. Gary Parks. Dr. Carole Parks, his widow, led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Navy Lieut. Daniel J. McGrath, chaplain of the amphibious assault ship USS Essex offered the Invocation and Benediction. The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band played a medley of military tunes, and provided a pair of buglers whose rendition of “Taps” ended the program.
The Memorial Service included participation by a color guard provided by the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets, a contingent from the Young Marines, and Girl Scout Daisy Troop 4167.
Among the audience were members of the Jewish War Veterans, the Chosin Few, U.S. Special Forces, Marine Corps League, the American Legion, and other veterans’ groups.
Keynote speaker Brig. Gen. John W. Bullard, Commanding General of Marine Corps Installations West, Camp Pendleton, said President Abraham Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg during the Civil War was the impetus for the national cemetery system.
“He reminded us that through their deeds, the dead had spoken more eloquently for themselves than any of the living ever could,” said Bullard. “And that we living could only honor them by rededicating ourselves to the cause for which they so willingly gave a last full measure of devotion.”
Memorial Day remains relevant, Bullard said, because “it embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly. A nation that is willing to commit itself and its most precious resource, its sons and daughters, to a course has a population bound together by a common set of ideals.”
A belief in “freedom, justice and liberty is what sets us apart and what makes us different from other countries,” Bullard said. “Let us appreciate that we live in the greatest country on earth because of those who have made it possible.”
By Bill Heard
Public Information Officer