A History of the Support Foundation
The Miramar National Cemetery Support Foundation, originally called the Support Foundation for Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery at Miramar, was formed in 2006 by San Diego-area veterans led by retired Air Force Brigadier General Robert L. Cardenas, Navy veteran John G. Ibe, Army veteran Richard T. Sells, and retired Army Colonel Jesse Ugalde. Dr. Gary G. Parks served on the board since its inception, and was elected President and CEO in 2008.
The initial goal of the organization’s founders was to persuade the Department of Veterans Affairs to approve construction of a new cemetery in San Diego as an adjunct to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, which had effectively been closed to new burials since 1966. The lack of a San Diego veterans’ cemetery required the families of local veterans to bury their loved ones at Riverside National Cemetery, an hour’s drive away, or at another Southern California cemetery.
The founders were successful with their campaign, and the VA agreed to open a new cemetery in San Diego. Construction began in 2009 on a 313-acre site on property ceded to the VA by Marine Corps Air Station San Diego. The cemetery, capable of accommodating 235,000 burial sites, was dedicated on 30 January 2010. The first five veterans to be buried at Miramar were interred on 22 November 2010.
From the outset, the Support Foundation coordinated with the VA and cemetery staff on the various ceremonies and events conducted at Miramar. These included dedication of the POW Monument on 16 September 2011, the initiation of annual Memorial Day services sponsored by the Support Foundation in 2012, dedication of the Memorial Walkway on 3 August 2013, the ceremonial burial of Army Sergeant Charles Schroeter—the cemetery’s first Medal of Honor recipient—on 9 July 2015, and the inauguration of Veterans Day services sponsored by the Support Foundation on 11 November 2017.
The Support Foundation’s first major project—which included raising some $110,000 in contributions—was construction of the unique Avenue of Flags. The installation features 50 American flags displayed on flagpoles that line the cemetery’s main avenue, from the gate into the Flag Assembly Area. The Avenue of Flags was dedicated in a public ceremony on 28 January 2012. The Support Foundation continues to maintain the installation, providing two annual flag change-outs and on-going maintenance of the flagpoles and equipment. No government funds were used for this project.
The Veterans Tribute Tower & Carillon was the Support Foundation’s second significant effort to enhance the cemetery for the benefit of visitors. To fund this project, the organization raised $500,000 in public and private donations. The 30-foot-tall tower features a 250-pound bronze bell that tolls on the hour. A music system plays “Taps” each evening, and broadcasts patriotic tunes at other times of the day.
The Carillon Tower honors the soldiers of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, who fought at the June 1953 Battle of Outpost Harry during the Korean War. A monument to these veterans stands at the base of the Tower, and three granite benches labeled Honor, Duty, Country provide seating near the Tower. The Veterans Tribute Tower & Carillon was dedicated on 11 November 2016. No government funds were used for this project.
The Support Foundation is currently working with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Cemetery Administration, and the Miramar National Cemetery leadership to build the “Armed Forces Memorial Amphitheater.” The goal of this project is to provide permanent guest seating and new landscaping for what now is the Flag Assembly Area. The Support Foundation anticipates raising between $450,000 and $500,000 for construction of the Amphitheater and the VA-required perpetual maintenance fund. No government funds will be used for this project.
In 2020, the Support Foundation’s diverse Board includes nine members, most of whom are Armed Forces veterans. The Board meets monthly, maintains an internet website (www.miramarcemetery.org) and a FaceBook page. It conducts annual fund-raising campaigns to finance its various veterans’ memorial activities and cemetery enhancement projects.
The Support Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charity. It is registered with the State of California Department of Justice Registry of Charitable Trusts as the “Support Foundation for Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery at Miramar.” Tax ID #65-1277308.