A Day of Remembrance at Miramar National Cemetery
This Year Marks the 150th Anniversary of Memorial Day
It was a special day of remembrance at Miramar National Cemetery, 27 May, as veterans and their families, active duty members, and the public gathered to pay their respects to those who lie at rest in the “Garden of Heroes”.
The sunny, breezy day brought out some 500 to participate in the Veterans Memorial Service, the seventh annual commemoration sponsored by the Miramar National Cemetery Support Foundation. Speakers noted that this year marks the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day, and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
“Every veteran who is buried in these hallowed grounds has a story, one that deserves to be remembered,” said cemetery Director Rex Kern. “It is said that every person dies two deaths. The first is when our last breath escapes us. The second comes some time later when no one speaks our name, or tells our story. We don’t ever want our veterans to suffer that second death.”
Support Foundation President and CEO Cathy Fiorelli asked the audience to direct their thoughts to the memory of individual veterans. As examples, she named five of the thousands of veterans who are buried at Miramar:
- Bob Hoover, a World War 2 fighter pilot who escaped a POW camp, and flew to freedom by stealing a German airplane;
- Gladys Palast, one of the first women to enlist in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve during World War 2;
- Sergeant Ted Wada, whose family was interned in an Arizona relocation camp for Japanese, while he served with the famous 442nd Regimental Combat Team in Italy and Germany;
- Padres broadcaster Jerry Coleman, who interrupted his professional baseball career to fight as a Marine Corps pilot in World War 2 and Korea;
- Elizabeth Ann Nimits, a World War II veteran, and a founder of the Southern California Chapter of the Navy Nurse Corps Association;
- Rear Admiral John Batzler, a decorated Navy fighter pilot in Vietnam. He also commanded the Aircraft Carrier Nimitz, and the Enterprise and Carl Vinson carrier strike groups; and
- Army Sergeant Charles Schroeter, a German immigrant, and veteran of the Civil War and the Indian Wars. Schroeter is the only Medal of Honor recipient buried at Miramar National Cemetery.
A Coast Guard Hero
Capt. Joseph R. Buzzella, Jr., commander of the Coast Guard Southwest Region and Captain of the Port of San Diego, was the ceremony’s featured speaker. He is responsible for operations ensuring maritime safety, security, and environmental protection from the US-Mexican border north to Dana Point, and inland to include Lakes Havasu, Meade, Mohave, Powell, and the Colorado River.
Buzzella told the story of Coast Guardsman Douglas A. Monro, 22, a first-class signalman, who led the evacuation of a battalion of Marines that came under heavy enemy fire at Guadalcanal in September 1942. With most of the Marines embarked on Monro’s group of boats, he placed his own boat in the line of fire between the enemy and the remaining Marines, allowing them to evacuate safely. In doing so, Monro was fatally wounded.
For his “extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action”, Monro, a native of Cle Elum, Wash., was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor – the only Coast Guardsman to be so honored.
“There are many service members across our nation laid to rest, and also resting here in these beautiful sacred grounds, who served, sacrificed, and died protecting and defending our liberty, and our way of life,” Buzzella said. “We are thankful to our men and women who wear Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard uniforms – past and present – for putting themselves in harm’s way, and making the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation and our people.”
The Army National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division Band performed patriotic music, and ninth-grader Siena Lorraine Haustein of Carlsbad, daughter of Wendy Wutzke and Scott Haustein, sang the National Anthem.
Also participating in the service were Chaplain (Colonel) Stephen E. Forsyth, Jr., who delivered the Invocation and Benediction. Forsyth is the Senior Army Chaplain for the California Army National Guard, and the Senior Pastor at the El Cajon Wesleyan Church.
Bugler David Powell performed “Taps”, and Bagpiper John Forrest played “Amazing Grace”. The San Diego unit of Young Marines, local Boy Scouts and Sea Scouts troops assisted visitors during the ceremony.
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Story and photos by:
Bill Heard, Public Information Officer