Memorial Day “is the day set aside to honor the valor of our service members who gave all,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Russell A. Muncy stressed during the Veterans Memorial Service, May 28, at Miramar National Cemetery. It’s the day to remember “those men and women who demonstrated the courage of soul necessary to defend our nation.”
Muncy was introduced by Catherine Fiorelli, President and CEO of the Miramar National Cemetery Support Foundation, which sponsored the sixth annual memorial service.
Fiorelli described the cemetery as a “Garden of Heroes” where those “who have sacrificed their time, their talents, and their lives for our country” lie at rest. “Those memories are all around us,” she said, symbolized by the cemetery’s Avenue of Flags, the POW Monument, and the recently dedicated Veterans Tribute Tower & Carillon.
In his address before an audience of some 600 gathered in the cemetery’s Flag Assembly Area, Muncy noted that in the past 16 years, “hundreds of thousands have deployed to the mountains of Afghanistan and the deserts of Iraq. In that time, approximately 7,000 of our nation’s sons and daughters died fighting these battles overseas so you and I could enjoy the freedoms and safeties we experience here at home.”
But, Muncy, commanding general of the 452nd Air Mobility Wing and March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, also acknowledged the importance of military families – “the group I consider the largest branch of our nation’s Armed Forces.”
“You provide the stability during the tumultuous times of war,” he said. “It is you who are the backbone of our nation’s military, for it is you who enable those of us in uniform to serve.”
Only a fraction serve
Muncy noted that only one-half of one percent of the 320 million-plus Americans currently serves in the military. Most families have no one serving, and many Americans don’t know anyone serving. Thus, he said, they don’t “understand the sacrifices made by our military personnel and their loved ones.”
“They do not know the fear felt by loved ones for a service member in harm’s way,” he said. “They do not know the hole left in a loved one’s heart from the loss of a fallen service member. This sobering fact drives home the immense necessity for a day such as Memorial Day.”
Muncy punctuated that thought by reading a letter from a young soldier – Army Pfc. Rachel Bosveld – who wrote to her mother while on deployment. Bosveld was due to receive a Purple Heart for injuries suffered when her truck was destroyed by an IED or rocket-propelled grenade. But, she was in good spirits, she wrote her mother, and was looking forward to her birthday. Bosveld was killed in a mortar attack six days later – 12 days before her 20th birthday.
The letter, Muncy said, “speaks to why veterans such as Private Bosveld serve. They do so to protect the freedoms fought for and died for by those who have gone before us, so that our children and our children’s children will always know freedom firsthand.”
Lt. Cmdr. Jason M. DiPinto, 11th Coast Guard District chaplain offered the Invocation and Benediction at the memorial service. DiPinto previously deployed with the 8th Marine Regiment, and served as ship’s chaplain aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) and USS Essex (LHD-2).
Also participating in the service were the Westwind Brass Ensemble of San Diego State University, Bugler Roy Zanni, Bagpiper John Forrest, and the Young Marines of San Diego.
Following the service, members of the audience placed flowers on many of the cemetery’s 11,700 gravesites. As the visitors passed among the graves, the 50 American flags along the Avenue of Flags fluttered in the brisk, cool wind. And, at intervals, the Veterans Carillon played patriotic music in memory of those who lay at rest nearby.
By Bill Heard
Public Information Officer