“Today we pay tribute to our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, and pay homage to those who have sacrificed their very lives in defense of this nation,” said Lou Scanlon, president/CEO of the Mount Soledad Memorial Association (MSMA), which hosts the annual holiday ceremony. “We'd also like to recognize the service and sacrifice of all our nation's veterans.”
Scanlon noted MSMA has made great strides this past year, one in particular.
“We not only continue to manage and maintain the memorial, as we have done since 1954, we are honored to now own it,” he said. “It was purchased this year from the federal government. And we now have control over the whole site – the cross, the memorial walls and the American flag, which proudly flies above us.”
Scanlon noted MSMA is about to embark on a fundraising campaign to “ensure that this beacon of freedom shines brightly in the future … to tell the stories of the sacrifices of our veterans and to educate and inspire future generations.”
MSMA's current president added other recent improvements made to the memorial site include bringing electricity to light its stairs and American flag, the repainting of its towering cross and renovation of the fence surrounding it.
The theme for this year's event was “If you love freedom, thank a veteran and our active military.”
“I'd like to remind everybody we all share this common reason for being here today: honoring the men and women who have honored, protected and served this great nation,” said master of ceremonies Marc Bailey, San Diego 6 TV anchor. “I can't think of a better place to do that than on this mountaintop.”
It was the largest crowd to ever attend a Memorial Day service on Mount Soledad, exceeding the turnout when San Diego Padres announcer and military fighter pilot Jerry Coleman was previously honored with a memorial plaque.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer and District 1 Councilwoman and Council President Sherri Lightner jointly presented a proclamation on behalf of the city honoring veterans and their service
A memorial wreath was also presented to honor those who've paid the ultimate sacrifice.
A descendent of Theodore Roosevelt, Phil Roosevelt, the editor of Barron's magazine, thanked MSVMA for honoring his family and the legacy of the renowned former U.S. president.
“Theodore Roosevelt would have liked the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial,” Phil Roosevelt said. “This memorial is TR all the way. In fact, its democratic principles are strikingly akin to those of the Rough Riders, the famed cavalry unit that TR assembled for the Spanish-American War. TR always believed that the bonds forged amongst diverse groups of soldiers would last a lifetime, and serve as fundamental building blocks of American democracy.”
Pointing out his famous relation was an early proponent of social and economic inclusion, Roosevelt added, “Fittingly, Theodore Roosevelt takes his place among the celebrated and the unsung, in addition to other presidents, admirals and generals, Hollywood stars and many of the lesser-known heroes here. From the Roosevelt family to all of you, thank you for what you have done for the country.”
The event's keynote speaker, Capt. Craig Clapperton, USN, commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, CVN-71, gave a stirring speech to “recognize our fallen American heroes, remember their sacrifice, and remind ourselves of the cost of freedom.”
Noting “America is the greatest country in the world, and its single greatest hope,” Clapperton added that “we are the oldest, longest-standing, greatest democracy the world has ever known, an extraordinary sociological experiment that proves that government of the people, for the people, and by the people, is the only way.”
The Memorial Day ceremony concluded with a military flyover of the site and the singing of “God Bless America” by Angela Petty, the audience and the Marine Corp Band.