Veterans Tribute Tower & Carillon
Newest Memorial Dedicated at
Miramar National Cemetery
Some 200 veterans, active duty military, and civilians gathered, Nov. 11, for a special ceremony to dedicate a Veterans Tribute Tower & Carillon, the newest addition to a growing collection of memorials at Miramar National Cemetery.
Two years in the planning, the 30-foot-tall bell tower now stands on a knoll on the north side of the cemetery where it is visible from most points of the grounds, and from nearby streets. The Tower is unlike any other at a VA-operated cemetery.
Noting that the ceremony was held on Veterans Day, the featured speaker – retired Army Reserve Col. William G. Gang, civilian aide to Army Secretary Eric Fanning – said veterans “have served with honor and with dignity. They have not only fought our wars, they have preserved the peace, whether in faraway lands or in home station. They have lived uncommon lives under a common banner: a love of country and service to their fellow man.”
The Tower is specially dedicated to soldiers of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division who fought in the June, 1953, Battle of Outpost Harry during the Korean War, and also honors veterans of all U.S. military services. The Miramar National Cemetery Support Foundation, which coordinated funding and construction of the Tower, sponsored the dedication.
Guest speaker at the event was Bob Baker, 84, who as a 20-year-old corporal fought in the eight-day Battle of Outpost Harry. Now a prominent local automobile dealer, Baker donated $275,000 toward the $400,000 Tower project. Joining Baker for the event were four other survivors of Outpost Harry.
“I’m here to tell you that I thank God for saving my life,” said Baker. “When I was in Korea, I can point to nine different times I should have been shot or killed.” The young soldier made 27 nighttime patrols into enemy territory, and volunteered for a suicide mission, along with his buddy, Stan Carney, who like Baker, had come from a broken home.
‘Didn’t have a lot to live for’
“We didn’t have a lot to live for,” Baker recalled for the dedication audience. “We were living for other people, so we said we’d do it.” They were given an afternoon to prepare, but as they were stepping off on patrol, they were called back. The Chinese already had attacked their outpost.
Despite the desperate fighting against what at times were overwhelming odds, as Chinese troops attacks came wave after wave, Baker survived the war with only a cut on his leg – the result of a jeep accident.
In addition to the funds contributed by the Bob Baker Family Foundation, Inc., the San Diego County Board of Supervisors donated an additional $78,000 through Supervisor Bill Horn’s neighborhood discretionary funds. Members of the public also contributed funding to the project.
In his remarks, Horn observed that of the 3.1 million residents of San Diego County, 1.1 million are related in some way to the military – one-third of the population. But, nationally, only one percent of citizens serve in the military.
“I think we owe them for their sacrifice,” Horn said. “When they take their oath to the country…they’re putting their life on the line. They’re offering their life to their country.”
As the Tribute Tower’s primary benefactor, Baker was given the honor of officially activating the Tower by using an electronic device to ring the 250-pound bronze bell. The Tower is programmed to play the Westminster chimes and ring the bell on the hour. The bell also rings once on the half-hour. In addition, the carillon can play a wide selection of patriotic music as directed by the cemetery administration.
‘Commemorate veterans’ service’
Bradley G. Phillips, executive Director of the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) Pacific Division, expressed appreciation to the Support Foundation on behalf of the NCA, adding that projects like the Tribute Tower, “bring the community together to commemorate our veterans’ service to our nation.”
“Our Foundation is very appreciative of the support we have had from our major donors – Bob Baker and Supervisor Horn – and from all those who contributed to the project over many months,” said Dennis A. Schoville, Foundation President and CEO. “We expect the Veterans Tribute Tower & Carillon to be a focal point of Miramar National Cemetery, and to be an inspiration to all who visit the cemetery to pay their respects to those who are buried here.”
The Veterans Tribute Tower & Carillon is the single largest project the Support Foundation has undertaken on behalf of the cemetery. In January 2012, the Foundation dedicated the $110,000 Avenue of Flags project, a display of 50 American flags unique among national cemeteries.
The Tower stands on a landscaped plaza where visitors may gather to read the inscription on a commemorative plaque set into the base of the Tower, and the dedication to the U.S. 15th Infantry Regiment mounted on an adjacent memorial pedestal.
The inscription on the plaque reads, “This tower stands as a lasting tribute to all American veterans and to the valiant defenders of Outpost Harry. And to our honored dead who have paid the ultimate price to preserve the freedoms of this great Republic.”
At the close of the dedication ceremony, the Tower played “Taps” while the audience stood at reverent attention, active duty military and veterans saluting as the final notes died away.