San Diegans Mark Memorial Day 2020 in Virtual Tribute
Program highlights Fort Rosecrans, Miramar, Mt. Soledad and USS Midway Museum
As Marine Corps buglers Cpl. James Dawson and Lance Cpl. Elizabeth Follman played “Echo Taps”, family members visiting the graves of their loved ones at Miramar National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2020 rose and stood at attention. The haunting melody was a tribute to the men and women who had served their country as members of the United States Armed Forces.
Beyond that moment, no other service was held at Miramar on this annual day of commemoration. Instead, the Miramar National Cemetery Support Foundation, Cemetery Director Jared Howard, and keynote speaker U.S. Attorney Robert S. Brewer, Jr. participated in a unique virtual program that also included segments from the USS Midway Museum, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, and the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial.
Foundation Vice President Sallay Kim coordinated the Miramar portion of the program. Board member Jeff Simonides coordinated the program segment at Fort Rosecrans.
During his remarks, Howard said, “The way that we are observing Memorial Day is different from what we usually do, but today, we continue the tradition of honoring those who sacrificed for our Nation. We remember and honor those who gave their lives in uniform by spending a quiet moment paying homage to their courage and sacrifice.”
Howard, an Army veteran, described a website launched by the National Cemetery Administration in 2019 that allows the public to post tributes to veterans buried in VA cemeteries. The Veterans Legacy Memorial website can be accessed at www.vlm.cem.va.gov.
Brewer, an Army veteran who was awarded the Silver Star, two Bronze Star Medals and two Air Medals for service in Vietnam, described the sacrifice of Army Chaplain Emir Kapaun who was awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his service to his men while in captivity during the Korean War.
Chaplain died in captivity
“As a prisoner of war,” Brewer said, “he was brutally marched to a POW camp in North Korea. There he continued to care for and pray with many other American POWs and was severely punished on several occasions for refusing to stop such activities.” Following an Easter sunrise service, Kapaun was beaten so badly he never recovered, and died in captivity. “He was the ninth chaplain to receive the nation’s highest award for gallantry in combat.”
As viewers watched on their home computers, host Mark Bailey opened the hour-long program from the flight deck of the Midway, noting that this year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. He introduced each of the program’s segments in turn, beginning with a ceremony at Fort Rosecrans, where Marine Lance Cpl. Megan Browning sang the National Anthem. Navy Chaplain (Captain) Terry Gordon, Command Chaplain, Navy Region Southwest, delivered the Invocation.
Brig. Gen. Ryan Heritage, Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, noted how important it is to “pay tribute to all who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country, and to the families who sustain the pain of their death.” Despite the world uncertainties and the current pandemic, he said, young men and women continue to volunteer for service to their country. “They continue to pledge to something greater than themselves.”
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulkner introduced the next segment, a visit to Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial in La Jolla, where Association President Neil O’Connell described the intense combat operations of the Army’s 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division against the North Vietnamese Army in 1966-67.
Medal of Honor recipient
O’Connell also pointed out a plaque on a Memorial wall dedicated to Marine Staff Sgt. Karl G. Taylor, Sr. Taylor was awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his actions in an engagement with the enemy on 8 December 1968, during which he saved the lives of several fellow Marines.
The program included brief, pre-taped inspirational messages from a number of speakers. These included James E. McPherson, Acting Secretary of the Navy; Lt. Gen. Joseph Osterman, Commanding General, First Marine Expeditionary Force; Rear Admiral Peter Gautier, Commander, U.S. Coast Guard District Eleven; Vietnam Veteran and former Marine Dale Dye; retired Navy Captain Jack Ensch, Vietnam veteran, Ex-POW, and Navy Cross recipient; and retired Rear Admiral Margaret Kibben, former U.S. Navy Chief of Chaplains.
Back on the Midway after the Miramar segment, Dave Koontz, Midway Director of Marketing, introduced Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar, Commander, Navy Region Southwest, who recognized the families of the fallen.
“To you, the mothers, the fathers, wives, the husbands, and children of America’s heroes,” she said, “I say the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Coast Guardsmen who mean so much to you showed great honor and courage in the face of adversity because of you.”
San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit expressed appreciation for the service and sacrifices of front-line workers during the pandemic – medical personnel, service workers, grocery store employees, utility workers, and others – who have kept the public healthy and safe in their homes. “When times are tough, we all work together to get back on our feet and look ahead to a brighter tomorrow. Our communities are filled with great people who choose to put others before themselves.”
The program was brought to a touching conclusion when Admiral Bolivar, assisted by Navy Region Southwest Command Master Chief Chris Fitzgerald, tossed a red, white and blue memorial wreath into the waters of San Diego Bay.
By Bill Heard, Public Information Officer
MNC Support Foundation