Presidio of San Francisco (May 26, 2011) -- The 143rd San Francisco Memorial Day Ceremony will take place at the San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio on Monday, May 30. Drawing more than 2,500 people, the Presidio ceremony is one of the largest Memorial Day events in the nation. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the United States' entry in to World War II; ceremonies will honor the 400,000 Americans killed during that war.
"I was a kid during World War II, and those that served in our military were my heroes", says Wally Levin, a veteran of the Korean War and Ceremony coordinator of the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Presidio. "Today, the brave men and women of the greatest generation are still my heroes. I am proud to be part of honoring them on this 70th Anniversary commemoration."
Events begin at 10:30 am with the 191st Army Band leading a parade 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 am and will feature a 4-gun salute and a special tribute to the 70th anniversary of America's entry into World War II, including a wreath laying ceremony at the Cenotaph by World War II veterans. The program will include the Cable Car Chorus, Howitzer cannon salutes, and a flyover by the U.S. Coast Guard. The featured speaker will be Retired Marine Major General J. Michael Myatt, who was the commander of the Marines that freed Kuwait City in the first Gulf War.
The United States entered World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. This marked the beginning of a period of great activity in the Presidio of San Francisco. Fort Winfield Scott sprang to life as the headquarters for the defense of Pacific harbors and the Presidio became the headquarters of the Western Defense Command responsible for retaking Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians from the Japanese. In the fall of 1941, the Presidio became the initial home for a military intelligence Japanese language school. While the threat of invasion faded after the naval Battle of Midway in 1942, the Presidio's several headquarters continued the war effort until peace came in 1945.
As in previous military conflicts, the Presidio provided support for departing and returning troops. The Letterman Army Hospital was a major center for casualties. More than 3,100 veterans of World War II are buried in the National Cemetery. Their headstones are quiet reminders of the sacrifice and lasting contributions made by American soldiers to their country.
"The Memorial Day Ceremony is so important to the Presidio and its history of military service," said Craig Middleton, Presidio Trust Executive Director. "We are honored to host and support this annual event."
The National Cemetery in the Presidio is a designated National Historic Landmark, dating back to 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 on Memorial Day.
Following the program, light refreshments and a spiritual service at the historic Presidio Chapel will be sponsored by the Interfaith Center at the Presidio. Community organizations will also be on site with information on how to support veterans throughout the year.
Also following the program, the National Park Service will offer half-hour tours of the National Cemetery.
Parking is free on holidays, but space is limited due to Main Post construction. A free Memorial Day shuttle will provide service between the Main Post and the National Cemetery beginning at 9:30am and running through 1:30pm. Pickup and drop-off locations will be the Transit Center, the Officers' Club and the Powder Magazine. For more information about the Presidio's Memorial Day Events visitwww.presidio.gov or call 415-561-5418.
The Presidio Trust was established by the United States Congress in 1996 to administer the Presidio of San Francisco, an urban national park site located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Presidio is one of the largest and most ambitious historic preservation projects underway in the United States. The Presidio's historic buildings represent the nation's most comprehensive collection of military architecture, dating from the Civil War through the Cold War, including homes and barracks that reflect how the military social hierarchy and domestic life evolved in the Presidio. Since 1994, approximately 75 percent of the park's historic structures have been rehabilitated for new uses. The park comprises nearly 6 million square feet of buildings, including 469 historic structures that contribute to the Presidio's status as a National Historic Landmark District."