Presidio of San Francisco (May 23,
2014) -- The 146th San Francisco Memorial Day Ceremony will
take place at the San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio on Monday,
May 26th. One of the largest Memorial Day events in the nation, the
Presidio ceremony regularly draws more than 2,500 people. This year marks the 50th
anniversary of the escalation of the Vietnam War.
Events begin at 10:30 am with the 191st
Army Band leading a grand march of veterans, distinguished guests and historic
vehicles from the Presidio’s Main Post Parade Ground (Montgomery St. and
Sheridan Ave.) to the National Cemetery at 1 Lincoln Boulevard. The formal
ceremony begins in the Cemetery at 11:00 am and will feature a 4-gun salute and
a special tribute to the veterans of the Vietnam War, including a wreath
presentation. The program will include
songs from the Cable Car Chorus, Howitzer cannon salutes, and remarks by BG C.
David Turner, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; State Senator Mark Leno, and
Vietnam Veteran Philip Gioia.
“This year Americans will commemorate the
50th Anniversary of the escalation of the Vietnam War,” says Wally Levin, a veteran
of the Korean War and Ceremony coordinator of the Memorial Day Ceremony at the
Presidio. “We are dedicating this ceremony to our Vietnam Veterans and giving
them a long-overdue ‘Welcome Home and Thank You.’”
American involvement in South Vietnam lasted
from 1959 to 1975, during which time the Presidio was a key link in the
projection of American military power into the Pacific Theater. From the mid
1960’s through the early 1970’s, more than 536,000 U.S. soldiers went to
Vietnam. Many were deployed from the Presidio. To care for wounded soldiers
returning from the Vietnam War, the new Letterman Army Medical Center was built
in 1969. Air traffic at Crissy Field during this time consisted primarily of
liaison flights and MedEvac flights bringing wounded Vietnam soldiers from
Travis Air Force Base to the new hospital. More than 60,000 U.S. soldiers were
killed in Vietnam. More than 300,000 were injured.
The Presidio played a key role in Operation
Babylift, an effort to evacuate children from Vietnam near the end of the
conflict. After withdrawal of American
troops, the first flights carrying orphans arrived at the Presidio on April 3rd,
1975. Building 649 (Harmon Hall) was adapted as the reception center for the children.
That spring, the Presidio, housed, clothed, fed, medically treated, and
processed 1,318 Vietnam orphans. An in-depth exhibit exploring the impact and
controversy of Operation Babylift will be on display at the Presidio Officers’
Club in 2015.
“It is a great privilege for the Presidio
Trust to host this important annual Ceremony,” said Craig Middleton, Presidio
Trust Executive Director. “Later this year we will be reopening the
Presidio’s Officers’ Club as a venue to honor the heritage of the Presidio and
those whom served and sacrificed for our nation.”
Cemetery in the Presidio is a designated National Historic Landmark,
dating from the 1846 war with Mexico. More than 35,000 veterans and their
dependents are buried there. It has long been a tradition for the Boy Scouts to
decorate each grave in the cemetery with an American flag for Memorial Day.
This year, the Girl Scouts will join the Boy Scouts in this tribute, placing
the flags over the weekend.
Following the program, the National Park
Service will offer half-hour tours of the National Cemetery, and the Presidio
Chapel will be open for prayer & meditation from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm.
Parking at the Main Post is free on holidays,
and a free Memorial Day shuttle will provide service between the Main Post and
the National Cemetery beginning at 9:30am and running through 2:00pm.
information about the Presidio’s Memorial Day Events visit www.presidio.gov or call 415-561-5300.
About the Presidio Trust
The Presidio Trust, a federal agency, is an innovation in the
management of a treasured American place. The Trust was created to save the
Presidio and transform it for a new national purpose. The Trust's vision is that
the Presidio will be forever a public place: vital to the Bay Area, important
to all Americans, and recognized for achieving broad benefits for the nation.
Today, the Presidio welcomes visitors, is home to a vibrant community of
residents and tenants, and inspires greater good through programs that draw on
its history and natural resources. The Presidio Trust serves the public with
events, lodging, venues, and recreational opportunities. To learn more, visit www.presidio.gov.