Letters Home: A fallen soldier and a memorial.

I’ve photographed many monuments that remember those who’ve fallen in war.

At the Veterans Memorial in Vista, California, the powerful monument to one particular soldier can easily bring you to tears.

Please look at the following images, read the two random letters that I photographed leading to the sculpture, then the plaque that describes the life and death of a young person who simply wanted to serve. Click those photos and they will enlarge for easier reading.

Veterans Memorial Park was created by the Pinamonti family to honor Ernie, son and brother, who was killed in the Vietnam War.

Sculpture at Veterans Memorial, by artist Rip Caswell, 2016.
Sculpture at Veterans Memorial, by artist Rip Caswell, 2016.

Dear Family, Today we are starting our first day of training...Mail call is the best part of the day and I really look forward to it...I miss everyone a great deal and I read the letters over and over. Sincerely, Ernie
Dear Family, Today we are starting our first day of training…Mail call is the best part of the day and I really look forward to it…I miss everyone a great deal and I read the letters over and over. Sincerely, Ernie
Dear Ernie...If there is anything you need, just ask and we will send it to you...Remember to write every couple days so I don't worry about you. Be good and take care of yourself. I miss you. Love, Mother
Dear Ernie…If there is anything you need, just ask and we will send it to you…Remember to write every couple days so I don’t worry about you. Be good and take care of yourself. I miss you. Love, Mother

Flag flies above Veterans Memorial Park in Vista, California.
Flag flies above Veterans Memorial Park in Vista, California.
On May 15, 1969, our family was forever changed by the knock on the front door that brought news that our 19 year old brother, Ernie, had died of wounds received while assisting a fellow soldier...
On May 15, 1969, our family was forever changed by the knock on the front door that brought news that our 19 year old brother, Ernie, had died of wounds received while assisting a fellow soldier…

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.

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag. There are thousands upon thousands of photographs.

Bust of a San Diego Air Force hero.

The beautifully sculpted commemorative bust of San Diego resident, retired Brigadier General Robert L. Cardenas, USAF occupies a place of honor in Balboa Park. The bust can be found in the Veterans Memorial Garden, a short walk from the entrance to the The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park.

I was on hand to observe the sculpture’s unveiling almost six years ago. The ceremony was held during a Spirit of ’45 event that honored heroes of World War II. To see that inspirational blog post, click here.

I’ve decided to post photographs of the Cardenas bust today because it’s Memorial Day–one of those days when we express our gratitude to all military service members. And because I posted photos of another sculpture by the same artist a couple days ago.

San Diego sculptor Richard Becker also created Liberation, a statue at Miramar National Cemetery. That bronze sculpture remembers and honors Prisoners of War. You can see the emotionally powerful Liberation here.

Brigadier General Robert L. Cardenas, USAF has a list of achievements and awards a mile long. Please read his Wikipedia page here. You’ll learn that in World War II, after he was shot down during a mission over Germany, he swam across a lake into Switzerland to escape capture, then rejoined the fight. You’ll also learn that years later, from a B-29 Superfortress that he piloted, he dropped the experimental supersonic X-1 aircraft flown by Chuck Yeager, who broke the sound barrier.

Behind the bust of Robert Cardenas you can see a sculpture of a B-24 Liberator bomber from World War II. It’s the plane that Robert Cardenas flew during the Second World War.

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!

Create a virtual tribute to a deceased Veteran.

After the Memorial Day ceremony, some people linger to view the ceremonial wreaths. The plaque behind the rostrum contains President Lincoln's famed Gettysburg Address.

Are you a relative or friend of a deceased military Veteran? Are you grateful to someone who served in the United States Armed Forces who is no longer with us?

On this Memorial Day–or on any day–you can create a virtual tribute to those who chose to protect our nation and our freedom.

The online Veterans Legacy Memorial (VLM) now allows visitors to leave a comment on a Veteran’s memorial page.

According to the Veterans Legacy Memorial website, which is an extension of the National Cemetery Administration: “NCA manages more than 140 national cemeteries as shrine spaces to honor our Nation’s Veterans, and extends memorialization of the 3.7 million Veterans interred in those cemeteries to this digital memorial space by providing a VLM profile page for each Veteran.”

If you would like to create a virtual tribute to a deserving hero, a digital tribute that might endure forever, click here.

POW memorial at Miramar National Cemetery.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. We will remember and honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in past wars.

Yesterday I visited Miramar National Cemetery. I paused before a moving statue titled Liberation. The 15-foot tall monument was created by San Diego artist Richard Becker. It’s a memorial to Prisoners of War, who also sacrificed greatly.

The bronze statue shows a prisoner liberated, breaking free from surrounding barbed wire. The extraordinarily expressive artwork speaks for itself.

I thought you might like to see it.

If you’d like to see more work by renowned local sculptor Richard Becker, you can revisit past blog posts here or here or here or here.

The plaque on the base of Liberation reads:

This statue conveys the excitement, trepidation, exhilaration and emotion of the LIBERATION moment, as the emaciated soldier steps out of the darkness into the “Sunshine of Freedom.”

He portrays the hundreds of thousands who were bound in captivity by the infamy of foreign enemies.

This is to stand as an eternal legacy for our community by reminding visitors of the sacrifice of veterans during America’s efforts to keep alive the hopes and dreams of freedom for the oppressed around the world.

American-Ex Prisoners of War, Chapter One, San Diego.

Artist: Richard Becker.

Dedicated: 2011.

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!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

A live stream event celebrating Memorial Day.

Love and respect are shown for those in the military who pledged to protect their countrymen, and defend freedom. They are honored on Memorial Day.
Love and respect are shown for those in the military who pledged to protect their countrymen, and defend freedom. They are honored on Memorial Day.

This coming Memorial Day will be very different. The coronavirus pandemic has caused public events around San Diego to be cancelled.

But I’ve learned there will be a live stream over the internet that celebrates Memorial Day this year, and the virtual event will feature four locations: the USS Midway Museum, Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery, Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial, and Miramar National Cemetery. Those who perished serving in the United States Armed Forces will be honored and remembered.

If you’d like to learn more, or view the live stream online this Memorial Day starting at 9 am click here!

Holiday wreaths remember Greatest Generation.

Four wreaths of remembrance have been placed at the Battle of Leyte Gulf Memorial near the USS Midway Museum.
Four wreaths of remembrance have been placed at the Battle of Leyte Gulf Memorial, not far from the USS Midway Museum.

I was heading along the Greatest Generation Walk this morning when my eyes were surprised by bright color at the Battle of Leyte Gulf Memorial.

I discovered that four wreaths of remembrance had been recently placed on either side of the bust of Vice Admiral Clifton Sprague. Two were traditional holiday wreaths. It’s now less than two weeks before Christmas.

The image was so striking, and so thought-provoking, I thought I’d share a few photos.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf was a desperate naval battle in the Pacific Ocean theater during World War II. Few who fought there are still living.

Two of the wreaths say We Remember.

The other two offer hope.

We Remember Task Unit 77.4.3
We Remember Task Unit 77.4.3
The bust of Vice Admiral Clifton Sprague, and two holiday wreaths, on The Greatest Generation Walk in San Diego.
The bust of Vice Admiral Clifton Sprague and two colorful holiday wreaths on The Greatest Generation Walk in San Diego.

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!

Remembering the September 11 attacks.

A piece of the fallen World Trade Center.
A piece of the fallen World Trade Center.

It’s hard to believe 18 years has gone by. To me, the morning of September 11, 2001 doesn’t seem that long ago. Even though I observed the horror of 9/11 on television from the other side of the country, it’s one of those life changing memories that will never fade.

I realize the human world is full of tumult and antagonism, but I pray we all might finally learn to live in peace. Life is short enough as it is. Even though our many different ambitions and beliefs might come into conflict, why can’t we simply be kind to one another?

Over the past six years while blogging, I’ve experienced a few respectful moments in San Diego that remember the September 11 attacks. Each was deeply moving. If you want to revisit some of those images, here are the links:

9/11 Firefighter’s legacy: Two Sons and Stickball.

Freedom Bell at Balboa Park’s Veterans Museum. (The bell is cast from metal that includes steel from the World Trade Center towers.)

Photos of cool aviation event at Gillespie Field! (One special airplane on display during this event was painted to honor victims of 9/11.)

Heroes at San Diego 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.

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!

A small memorial and The Aztec Warrior.

In Memory of Jesus A. Suarez del Solar Navarro. Was born in Tijuana, Mexico - died like a hero and he will live forever in our hearts.
In Memory of Jesus A. Suarez del Solar Navarro. Was born in Tijuana, Mexico – died like a hero and he will live forever in our hearts.

Today I walked through beautiful Kit Carson Park in Escondido. I was on my way to see Queen Califia’s Magical Circle, a world famous sculpture garden by Niki de Saint Phalle. It’s an extraordinary work of art that celebrates life. I’ll post many photos in the next day or two.

As I walked up a path near Eagle Scout Lake, I stumbled upon a small memorial under a tree. I looked down to read some words.

A family in Escondido's Kit Carson Park pauses to gaze at a small memorial.
A family in Escondido’s Kit Carson Park pauses to gaze at a small memorial.
American flags and The Aztec Warrior. Hero of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
American flags and The Aztec Warrior. Hero of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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!

Scenes from Memorial Day in San Diego.

This morning I went to a Memorial Day ceremony at the San Diego Vietnam Peace Memorial, next to Balboa Park’s Veterans Museum. Representatives from San Diego’s Vietnamese community attended. They presented a wreath in remembrance. A beautiful new POW/MIA monument was revealed. (See my previous blog post.)

I and others then boarded an Old Town Trolley Tours bus. We were driven by our amazing Vietnam veteran driver Sam to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. There we attended the 119th Memorial Service and Day of Remembrance.

We heard deeply felt tributes to those who have served and sacrificed. Many wreaths were presented. Hearts poured out.

Thousand of tiny flags fluttered in the sea breeze.

Come along with me…

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!