A WWII paratrooper and his 2019 Normandy jump.

Tom Rice smiles after a brief speech at the 2019 Spirit of '45 Celebration at The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park.
Tom Rice smiles after a brief speech at the 2019 Spirit of ’45 Celebration at The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park.

Today I listened to a few words that were spoken by Tom Rice, a 97-year-old member of the Greatest Generation. He spoke during the annual Spirit of ’45 Celebration at The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park. He came up to the podium and told the audience about his experiences.

In the dark, very early morning of D-Day, 75 years ago, Tom parachuted behind Nazi lines with other brave soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, to pave the way for the invasion and liberation of Europe. In 2019 he parachuted into Normandy again, to honor other World War II veterans, many of whom are no longer with us.

He remembered his deeds with humility.

I learned that a film will soon be released that features Tom Rice’s anniversary jump. Libertas, which is the title of the Normandy Jump 2019 documentary, will be pre-screened on August 17 & 18, 2019, at the Vintage Village Theatre in Coronado, California. After the screening there will be a panel discussion with the film director, producer, and Tom.

Money raised through ticket sales will be used by Honor Flight for their Fall 2019 Tour of Honor, which will send World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C. so they can see their memorials. There are over 100 San Diego veterans on the waiting list.

Should you pre-order the DVD, use the code “Honor Flight” at check-out and $5 will go to help make the Tour of Honor possible.

To learn how you can buy a ticket for the special pre-screening of Libertas, or if you’d like to order the DVD, please visit this website.

I know some of this blog’s followers are in the local military community. Spread the word!

If you’d like to donate to Honor Flight San Diego, click here!

Faces of the USS Midway Remembrance Wall.

Real people, like you and me.
Real people, like you and me.

In this crazy world, during our busy and stressful lives, it can be easy to forget just how fortunate we are. To take Freedom for granted.

This morning I was reminded that some take an oath to defend that Freedom.

After attending the Memorial Day weekend Wreath Ceremony on the flight deck of the USS Midway, I headed down to the museum’s hangar deck. I wanted to see the Remembrance Wall.

I saw the smiling faces of family and friends and neighbors.

They won’t be forgotten.

A wreath for Memorial Day weekend. USS Midway Museum Remembrance Wall. Honoring our Fallen Heroes and Gold Star Families.
A wreath for Memorial Day weekend. USS Midway Museum Remembrance Wall. Honoring our Fallen Heroes and Gold Star Families.
Many faces.
Many faces.

Thank you for your service.
Thank you for your service.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Honoring victims, heroes of USS Bennington disaster.

Today I walked through the historic Bennington Memorial Oak Grove in Balboa Park. It’s my first visit to the grove of live oaks since December of 2017, when I observed Boy Scouts and volunteers working to improve the living memorial.

During my walk today, not only was I pleased to see the quiet oak grove was as peaceful and beautiful as ever, but I noted some information has been posted in the kiosk. I took a photograph so you might read it. Click my photo of the sign and the image will expand for easy reading. (Unfortunately, you’ll note the clear plastic protecting the sign was broken by vandals. But thankfully I saw absolutely no litter, graffiti or other signs of disturbance.)

You might notice the sign also features a QR code that opens a dedicated memorial website. To learn much, much more about the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove, please visit BenningtonMemorial.com.

The memorial website honors the lives of the 66 U.S. Navy sailors who tragically died when the USS Bennington’s boiler exploded in San Diego Bay on July 21, 1905. A separate page of the website is dedicated to each victim. You’ll also learn about the 11 courageous men who each earned a Medal of Honor for their heroism that day.

To see inspirational photos from a year and a half ago, when Boy Scouts and crew members of the San Diego-based aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt were working to improve the Bennington Memorial, click here and here. For many of those photos, I am grateful to the San Diego Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, and historian Kathleen Winchester in particular.

Now please enjoy the following pics taken today by the kiosk, and along the shady footpath that winds through the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove.

Sign at the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove describes one of the Navy's worst peacetime disasters, which took place in 1905 on San Diego Bay. Sixty six live oaks were planted to honor the victims of the USS Bennington boiler explosion.
Sign in kiosk at the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove describes one of the Navy’s worst peacetime disasters, which took place in 1905 on San Diego Bay. Sixty six live oaks were planted in Balboa Park to honor the victims of the USS Bennington boiler explosion.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

How to assist the families of Navy SEALs.

The Seal Family Foundation, taking care of their families while they protect ours.
The SEAL Family Foundation, taking care of their families while they protect ours.

If you’re inclined to help military families, who face challenges that we civilians will never know, I’ve learned about an organization that is worth your consideration. The SEAL Family Foundation provides assistance to families of U.S. Navy SEALs.

Navy SEALs see frequent deployments, operating in places that are extremely dangerous. That means Naval Special Warfare (NSW) families can face a range of difficulties.

To learn more, and possibly provide a donation, visit the SEAL Family Foundation website here.

Public art painted from dark, painful experience.

Smears of red, a flag, two faces.
Smears of red, a flag, two faces.

There are three new works of art on display in the breezeway between the downtown Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the Santa Fe Depot. These pieces concern disturbing emotions felt by combat veterans, and the ongoing battle of many with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

I believe–but I’m not certain–that the art you see in these photos was produced by military personnel who participate in the museum’s ArtOASIS program. ArtOASIS was created for PTSD patients in conjunction with Combat Arts, a local organization that provides opportunities for combat troops to express themselves.

These images are raw and painful. They are brutally honest. To paint these dark, secret things requires great personal courage.

Someone walks through the breezeway between MCASD and Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego.
Someone walks through the breezeway between MCASD and Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego.
PTSD. What happens when you get home and realize you will never be this awesome again. Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to the Light.
PTSD. What happens when you get home and realize you will never be this awesome again. Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to the light.
A lone figure lies against the wall of Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
A lone figure lies against the wall of Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
REAL TALK. Life.
REAL TALK. Life.

I live in downtown San Diego, and walk through the city with my camera. You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter.

Firefighter heroes in a drill downtown.

During my walk this morning through downtown San Diego I saw numerous firefighters and fire engines participating in a Sunday fire drill. It was a simulation of an emergency in a high-rise.

I thought you might enjoy a few photos of these true heroes in action!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Strength and determination in wheelchair rugby.

Today I watched some of the world’s best athletes compete. I headed up to Balboa Park to experience the 28th Annual Best of the West Quad Rugby Tournament in the Municipal Gymnasium. Most people know the sport as wheelchair rugby, or murderball. That last name sounds rather tough, but it’s for a good reason.

The quad rugby players that participated in this tournament are among the best in the world. Some have competed in the Paralympic Games. There were teams from California, Arizona, Texas and Minnesota, and even from London and Australia. The amazing team from Australia was this year’s Best of the West champion.

At the very top level, wheelchair rugby players are unbelievable athletes. They are strong, fast, agile, and can turn and accelerate on a dime. To block opposing players, trap them defensively, or upset an unfolding strategy, players will literally smash their chairs into one another. As if in some sort of crazy demolition derby, the bashing wheelchairs sometimes tip sideways, even turn over. And the players don’t seem fazed in the least. Each is an irresistible force, determined to assist their teammates and find a way through the opposition to score, no matter how.

Here are a few photos that capture a bit of the action.

The composition of one photograph turned out to be exceptionally dynamic, but the image was completely unfocused, so I altered it to appear like a cool oil painting.

You really have to see quad rugby in person to appreciate the heart of these players.

Raw human determination can be unstoppable.

Watching quad rugby is inspirational.

For an explanation of quad rugby, click this photo and it will expand for easy reading.
For an explanation of quad rugby, click this photo and it will expand for easy reading.

The victorious Australian quad rugby team celebrates by joining hands.
The Australian quad rugby team celebrated their championship by forming a circle, joining hands and rocking the gymnasium with a spirited, victorious shout!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!