Last year, for Father's Day, the Arena women gave Dad a card indicating a gift had been given in his name to the Mt. Soledad Veteran's Association. For this last year, I have been all but certain he knew of the intentions behind the card. It was nothing he said or did; then or now, it was all in a look, an expression that I clearly misinterpreted. This Father's Day we revealed the plaque in his honor. We invited him to the Memorial under the premise that Shaun wanted to see the new plaque for General Patton as a precursor to our Father's Day celebration.
The day was more San Francisco than San Diego, but the rain held out for which I was thankful. We all meandered along and eventually came across the Patton stone that had been freshly mounted for Memorial Day, just days after Dad's. Seven plaques over, Nathan exclaimed, "Look Grandpa, it's you!"
First response, "Well I'll be god damned." So, yeah, I guess he might have been a little surprised.
Mount Soledad Veteran's Memorial sits atop a hill in La Jolla, California overlooking a most fantastic coastline and ocean view. The memorial consists of a twenty nine foot Latin cross at its highest point, the base of which is encircled by red brick steps leading down to a flag pole with the American Flag waving in the gentle breeze.
Between the cross and flag are six concentric walls holding black granite plaques commemorating the service and sacrifice of veterans living and deceased.
The cross itself has been the subject of legal fodder and voter consideration for nearly two decades. The debate of course being a religious symbol on public land. For now, the matter is resolved. In July of 2008, U.S. Federal Judge Larry Alan Burns ruled that the cross could remain, stating, "The Court finds the memorial at Mt. Soledad, including its Latin cross, communicates the primarily non-religious messages of military service, death and sacrifice. As such, despite its location on public land, the memorial is Constitutional." The ACLU had 60 days from the date of the ruling to appeal to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but it did not pursue further action.
I will not get on a rant here about the use of religious symbols on public property or the word God on American currency or in the Pledge of Allegience. This space is to honor my dad and the dedicated service he gave to our family and country. Now, there is a little space up there, on one of those walls, to honor him too, forever.
The Mt Soledad Association had many rules about the content of what could be included on the plaque. No years of service (it was 26, by the way), no indications of death in the line of duty (thank God not) and the most disappointing of all was that the name had to match the veteran's discharge papers. I knew his preference, so there was begging involved, to no avail. I got over my dismay when I noticed his middle name was also right there on the official discharge, and so, would be included. I wondered and hoped even, that in the years and generations to come, perhaps my son would stand on that hilltop and share stories with his own grandson and feel a little extra connection at the sight of their shared name.
Check out www.soledadmemorial.com for more information on the Memorial or to find other veterans with the plaque locator.
Happy Father's Day, Dad.