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."
National 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.
For more information about the Presidio's Memorial Day Events visitwww.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.