Heroes of Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial.

Tinted morning sky above Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial in San Diego.
Tinted morning sky above Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial.

Early this morning, just as the sun was beginning to rise, I arrived at the top of a mountain. It had been a long while since I visited the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial.

Located in La Jolla, north of downtown San Diego, Mount Soledad is a place of stunning views and great natural beauty. And a place filled with memory and feeling. Thousands are honored here for unselfishly serving their country.

Plaques on six concentric walls each remember an American hero, some who are living, many who’ve passed away into history. At the center rises a tall white memorial cross, erected in 1954 to honor Korean War veterans. The subject of controversy over many years, the cross will soon stand protected on private land. The National Defense Authorization Act for 2015 contains a provision that will convey the cross to the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial Association.

Like a mosaic, eternally shining black granite plaques cover the low, curving walls; they tell the diverse stories of uniformed members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard, plus those who served in the Merchant Marine during World War II. The walls will ultimately hold 3,200 names.

If you have a loved one who is serving, or who has served, you can purchase a plaque. Here is the memorial’s website.

Sun rising on eastern horizon illuminates top of concentric walls of the memorial.
Sun rising on eastern horizon illuminates top of concentric walls of the memorial.
The cross is a landmark that can be seen for many miles in every direction. The flagpole is bare at this early hour.
The cross is a landmark that can be seen for many miles in every direction. The flagpole is bare at this early hour.
Early morning visitors to Mount Soledad take photos of the 29 foot high cross.
Early morning visitors to Mount Soledad take photos of the 29 foot high cross.
Looking south over part of La Jolla toward Mission Bay and Point Loma. Downtown San Diego is visible on the far left.
Looking south over part of La Jolla toward Mission Bay and Point Loma. Downtown San Diego is visible on the far left.
Beautiful yellow flowers, grass and benches are found about this mountaintop monument to all Veterans.
Beautiful yellow flowers, grass and benches are found about this mountaintop monument to all veterans.
Gazing over curved walls containing memorial plaques toward the Pacific Ocean in morning light.
Gazing over curved walls containing memorial plaques toward the Pacific Ocean in morning light.
Friendly gentleman keeping the Mt. Soledad Park clean is grateful to work up here surrounded by so much beauty.
Friendly gentleman keeping the Mt. Soledad Park clean is grateful to work up here surrounded by so much beauty.
Photograph of the historic, controversial cross taken from its base.
Photograph of the historic, controversial cross taken from its base.
Plaque states the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross was dedicated in 1954 as a tribute to those who've served in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Plaque states the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross was dedicated in 1954 as a tribute to those who’ve served in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Veteran volunteer prepares to proudly raise the American flag.
Veteran volunteer prepares to proudly raise the American flag.
The Stars and Stripes is carefully attached, ready to be lifted into the wide, blue sky.
The Stars and Stripes is carefully attached, ready to be lifted into the wide, blue sky.
The volunteer momentarily lowered the flag to half-mast, to honor the fallen. He then raised it to the top and showed his respect.
The volunteer momentarily lowered the flag to half-mast, to honor the fallen. He then raised it to the top and showed his respect.
Plaque at base of flagpole.
Plaque at base of flagpole.
The very energetic volunteer was happy to show me around the memorial.
The friendly volunteer was happy to show me around the memorial.
Names of donors on special bricks.
Names of donors on special bricks.
Pointing out notable names and heroic exploits that shine on the walls.
Pointing out notable names and heroic exploits that shine on the walls.
Photo plaques honor both living and dead members of United States uniformed services.
Photo plaques honor both living and deceased members of United States uniformed services.
Memorialized vets served honorably in eras and conflicts throughout our nation's history.
These memorialized vets served honorably in eras and conflicts throughout our nation’s history.
Jeffrey Scott Taylor of U.S. Navy killed in action in Afghanistan in 2005.
Jeffrey Scott Taylor of U.S. Navy killed in action in Afghanistan in 2005.
Plaque on Mt. Soledad honors and remembers prisoners of war, and those missing in action.
Plaque on Mt. Soledad honors and remembers prisoners of war, and those missing in action.
Herman Henry Hanneken, Brigadier General of U.S. Marine Corps, served in many wars long ago.
Herman Henry Hanneken, Brigadier General of U.S. Marine Corps, served in many wars long ago.
Famed band director Glenn Miller was a great morale builder during World War II.
Famed band director Glenn Miller was a great morale builder during World War II.
General Black Jack Pershing fought victoriously, from the Indian Wars through World War I.
General “Black Jack” Pershing fought victoriously, from the late 19th century through World War I.
Rear Admiral Thomas William McNamara has a plaque on Mount Soledad.
Rear Admiral Thomas William McNamara has a plaque on Mount Soledad.
U.S. Army Corporal Alfred W. Stewart helped liberate the Philippine Islands during WWII.
U.S. Army Corporal Alfred W. Stewart helped liberate the Philippine Islands during WWII.
Pharmacist's Mate Third Class Howard Manuel Gonzalez of the U.S. Navy is honored.
Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class Howard Manuel Gonzalez of the U.S. Navy is honored.
Harry Herman Heimple was a highly decorated U.S. Air Force Colonel during the Vietnam War and Desert Storm.
Harry Herman Heimple was a highly decorated U.S. Air Force Colonel during the Vietnam War and Desert Storm.
San Diego local hero Jerry Coleman, a baseball legend who served with great patriotism in two wars.
San Diego local hero Jerry Coleman, a baseball legend who served with great patriotism in two wars.
Audie Murphy, one of the most decorated American combat soldiers of World War II.
Audie Murphy, one of the most decorated American combat soldiers of World War II.
General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower's plaque is added to a host of other plaques representing those who served with equal honor.
General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s plaque is added to a host of other plaques representing those who served with equal honor.
Commander in Chief Harry S. Truman began his military career during World War I.
Commander in Chief Harry S. Truman began his military career during World War I.
Jack Kramer served in the U.S. Coast Guard during the Second World War. He helped create modern professional tennis.
Jack Kramer served in the U.S. Coast Guard during the Second World War. He helped create modern professional tennis.
The four Nicosia brothers fought in different military branches in several theaters of war.
The four Nicosia brothers fought in different military branches in several theaters of war.
Famed Army General George S. Patton is remembered for his storied service to our country.
Famed Army General George S. Patton is remembered for his storied service to our country.
Legendary movie actor James Stewart was promoted to Brigadier General after 27 years of military service.
Legendary movie actor James Stewart was promoted to Brigadier General after 27 years of military service.
Pappy Boyington was a scrappy fighter pilot ace of the U.S. Marines during World War II.
Pappy Boyington was a scrappy fighter pilot ace of the U.S. Marines during World War II.
Dedicated to Jewish Chaplains who perished while in service to their country.
Dedicated to Jewish Chaplains who perished while in service to their country.
Sir Winston Churchill, who defended Britain from the Nazis, was made an honorary American citizen.
Sir Winston Churchill, who defended Britain from the Nazis, was made an honorary American citizen.
Patrol Bombing Squadron Eighteen. To men like them we owe our freedom.
Patrol Bombing Squadron Eighteen. To men like them we owe our freedom.
The brave, meritorious Tuskegee Airmen of the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.
The brave, meritorious Tuskegee Airmen of the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.
Michael A. Monsoor, a Navy Seal and Medal of Honor recipient who sacrificed his own life to save his comrades in Iraq.
Michael A. Monsoor, a Navy Seal and Medal of Honor recipient who sacrificed his own life to save his comrades in Iraq.
I'm shown an often updated book that lists the positions of every plaque by name.
I’m shown an often updated book that lists the positions of every plaque by name.
The volunteer at the memorial dutifully rings eight bells.
The volunteer at the memorial dutifully rings eight bells.
The Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial is a place of moving stories, and many heroes.
The Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial is a place of moving stories, and many heroes.

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Aircraft Carrier Memorial on San Diego Bay.

Man points out a recent fleet carrier name on the Aircraft Carrier Memorial.
Man points out a recent fleet carrier name on the Aircraft Carrier Memorial.

Take a stroll down the Greatest Generation Walk on San Diego’s Embarcadero and you’re likely to see people standing beside the Aircraft Carrier Memorial, just gazing at the long list of historic Navy ships. Many will run their hand along the black marble obelisk as they search for the ship on which they or a loved one served.

The listed names include every fleet carrier, training carrier, light carrier, escort carrier, and amphibious assault ship from American history. Well, almost. I’ve noticed the fleet carrier section has run out of space, and the last ship named is the Ronald Reagan (CVN-76). No room remains to engrave the more recent USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77).

Sculpture of a sailor who served aboard a flattop.
Sculpture of a sailor who served aboard a flattop.
Obelisk of Aircraft Carrier Memorial remembers past ships from history.
Obelisk of Aircraft Carrier Memorial remembers past ships from naval history.

The memorial, whose bronze figures were sculpted by artists T.J. Dixon and James Nelson, contains the following words:

The advent of the aircraft carrier revolutionized modern naval warfare. This memorial was conceived by aircraft carrier veterans to honor this nation’s carriers and the personnel who proudly served aboard them. Powered by the human soul, these ships changed the course of history.

This site is known as the old navy “fleet landing”…where countless thousands of servicemen boarded boats that transported them to their ships.

The names of all U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and their hull numbers are inscribed hereon…from the smallest to the largest. Every “flattop” is of equal distinction…none above the other. The personnel who manned, fought and in some cases perished aboard these ships were and are a part of the finest Navy and Marine Corps in the world.

Sculpture of a naval aviator who flew from a carrier.
Sculpture of a naval aviator who flew from a carrier.
The Aircraft Carrier Memorial can be found on San Diego's Greatest Generation Walk.
The Aircraft Carrier Memorial can be found on San Diego’s Greatest Generation Walk.

The Greatest Generation Walk is located on San Diego Bay, just south of the USS Midway Museum.

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Photos of Jerry Coleman public memorial service.

Jerry Coleman, a life well lived.
Jerry Coleman, a life well lived.

Today, an estimated 5000 people turned out for the public memorial service celebrating the life of the late Jerry Coleman.  The service took place at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.  “The Colonel” had been the central figure in the Padres baseball organization for over four decades.  Jerry’s broadcasting voice will be missed by generations of fans.  An excellent argument can be made that he was the most loved public figure in the history of our city.

I apologize that my camera isn’t of the highest quality.  I do hope you enjoy a few images that I captured.

Crowd enters Petco Park for Jerry Coleman memorial service.
Crowd enters Petco Park for Jerry Coleman memorial service.
Petco Park screens show photos of Colonel Coleman.
Petco Park screens show photos of Colonel Coleman.
San Diegans fill Petco to demonstrate their love for Jerry.
San Diegans fill Petco to demonstrate their love for Jerry.
The colors are presented while everyone stands.
The colors are presented while everyone stands.
Dick Enberg remembers the late Jerry Coleman.
Dick Enberg remembers the late Jerry Coleman.

Dick Enberg noted that the stage was located on Jerry’s favorite spot: second base.  After the playing of the National Anthem by the Marine Band, F-18 fighter jets roared overhead in the missing man formation.

Fan holds up a star to honor Jerry Coleman.
Fan holds up a star to honor Jerry Coleman.
Tim Flannery sings his own composition about Jerry Coleman.
Tim Flannery sings his own composition about Jerry Coleman.

After speeches by Randy Jones, Bob Chandler, Ron Fowler and Ron Roberts, fan-favorite former Padres player Tim Flannery sang his own stirring composition about Jerry Coleman, the man who hung the stars.

Padres fan reads about a hero's many accomplishments.
Padres fan reads about a hero’s many accomplishments.
JC in a star on the scoreboard, and on next year's uniforms.
JC in a star on the scoreboard, and on next year’s uniforms.
Joe Torre represents Major League Baseball at Coleman memorial.
Joe Torre represents Major League Baseball at Coleman memorial.

Joe Torre received great applause when he related a few humorous and touching old Yankees stories, and spoke of Jerry Coleman’s heroism and humility.

Ted Leitner gives memorable and emotional keynote speech.
Ted Leitner gives memorable, emotional keynote speech.

Ted Leitner, Jerry’s broadcast partner for many years, brought laughter and tears with his intimate accounts of a baseball legend’s modest personality and funny quirks.  He concluded that Jerry Coleman was the best man he’d ever known.

Marines fire guns to salute a true hero.
Marines fire guns to salute a true hero.

After a salute by the Marine Corps, a T-6 SNJ aircraft from 1942, similar to the one Coleman flew in World War II passed overhead to honor the former Marine.

Jerry’s daughter Chelsea then spoke about her dad.  She said that all he really lived for was his country, the game of baseball, and the people he loved.  Dick Enberg concluded the memorial by saying that we all were fortunate to be part of the legacy of Jerry Coleman.

Celebrating a life well lived.
Celebrating a life well lived.

Bust of war hero in Little Italy’s Piazza Basilone.

Bust of World War II hero John Basilone in Little Italy.
Bust of World War II hero John Basilone in Little Italy.

This handsome bust is the central feature of Piazza Basilone, a small urban space with tables, umbrellas and a fountain at the corner of India and Fir Street in Little Italy.

A plaque beneath the bust begins with the following words:

GUNNERY SERGEANT JOHN BASILONE

NOVEMBER 4, 1916 – FEBRUARY 19, 1945

SERGEANT JOHN BASILONE WAS ONE OF THE FIRST ENLISTED MARINES TO BE AWARDED THE CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR OF WORLD WAR II. HE WAS ALSO POSTHUMOUSLY AWARDED THE NATIONAL CROSS.

HE WAS BORN TO ITALIAN IMMIGRANTS, SALVATORE AND DORA BASILONE, IN BUFFALO, NEW YORK. HE AND HIS TEN BROTHERS AND SISTERS GREW UP IN RARITAN, NEW JERSEY. RESTLESS AND ADVENTUROUS BY NATURE, JOHN ENLISTED IN THE ARMY AT THE AGE EIGHTEEN AND WAS ASSIGNED TO GARRISON SERVICE IN THE PHILIPPINES.

AFTER HIS HONORABLE DISCHARGE FROM THE ARMY, BASILONE RETURNED TO RARITAN. AS THE STORM CLOUDS OF WAR GATHERED, JOHN BELIEVED HIS PLACE WAS WITH THE FIGHTING FORCES. IN JULY 1940 HE ENLISTED IN THE MARINE CORPS.

IT WAS ON GUADACANAL THAT SERGEANT BASILONE ACHIEVED HIS PLACE IN MARINE CORPS HISTORY, BECOMING ONE OF THE FIRST ENLISTED MARINES TO BE AWARDED THE MEDAL OF HONOR OF WORLD WAR II; THE NATION’S HIGHEST AWARD FOR EXTRAORDINARY HEROISM AND CONSPICUOUS GALLANTRY IN ACTION.

During the Battle of Guadalcanal, Basilone held off 3,000 Japanese troops after his unit was almost entirely destroyed. He was later killed in action on the first day of the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Planet Earth globe fountain in Little Italy's Piazza Basilone.
Planet Earth globe fountain in Little Italy’s Piazza Basilone.

This unique fountain is just a few feet away.

United States flag raised in Southern California.

united states flag raised in southern california

This historical plaque, located in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park’s grassy central Plaza de Las Armas, reads:

On this spot the United States Flag was first raised in Southern California by Lt. Stephen C. Rowan U.S.N. commanding Sailors and Marines July 29, 1846

Looking past the bronze plaque at a few Old Town buildings.
Looking past the bronze plaque at a few Old Town buildings.

Military recruits jog through Balboa Park.

military recruits jog through Balboa Park

During my morning walks, I often see military personnel jogging through Balboa Park. Sometimes they can number in the hundreds. They wear distinctive yellow t-shirts marked “NAVY” and lustily chant military cadences as they proceed. I’m not sure whether they are sailors from one of the several nearby naval bases or marines from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. Usually one or two men will be holding a flag, and a few men in front will lead the way, suddenly changing direction at a moment’s notice.

My camera’s flash in this photo reflected brightly off safety tape on the joggers, making the energetic scene appear kinetic and dazzling.