Military veterans, park officials and political dignitaries dedicated a new scenic overlook this morning at the San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio in remembrance of the nation’s fallen soldiers.
The somber, cloud-draped Veterans Day ceremony was attended by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Haas, who along with veterans, military leaders and the U.S. Army Color Guard paid tribute to the more than 33,000 soldiers and their family members buried in the oldest national cemetery in the West.
Pelosi called the overlook site–a forest grove from which one can survey rows of gravesites along the hillside, and beyond, the San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island and Marin headlands–a “wonderful place of reflection.”
“One of the great honors that a soldier can have, is to be buried in a veterans cemetery,” Pelosi reflected, adding, “They will not be forgotten.”
The Presidio’s National Cemetery, dedicated in 1884, is the burial site of Civil War generals, Buffalo Soldiers and Medal of Honor awardees, among others. The Presidio itself is a former military base.
“These hills are a virtual time machine,” former Army officer and military historian Phil Gioia said, noting soldiers from every major U.S. conflict and military campaign were laid to rest there.
“They held in common two things: duty and sacrifice,” Gioia said.
“It is particularly poignant and sad to be here today,” said Pelosi, offering her condolences to the families of the 13 soldiers killed at Fort Hood last week.
“In the shadow of this unspeakable tragedy, we recall the deeper meaning of this day,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi also praised the recent passage in the Congress and signing into law by President Obama of the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act to assist with medical care for veterans.
Haas read from the poem “The Young Dead Soldiers” by Archibald MacLeish, who served as an artillery officer in World War I.
A portion of the poem, etched in stone along the overlook, reads:
“They say: We leave you our deaths, give them their meaning. We were young, they say. We have died. Remember us.”