Press covers ceremony honoring death of paid mercenaries, traditional military sacrifice honors ignored
By Fran Zimmerman
Apparently the Los Angeles Times, U-T San Diego, San Diego Reader and La Jolla Light forgot that San Diego is home to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, final resting place for more than 115,000 servicemembers and their families from all branches of the armed forces and site of the largest Memorial Day commemoration in the city.
Each of those newspapers carried stories with photographs, some prominent on Page One, of ceremonies in La Jolla at the “Mt. Soledad Veterans’ Memorial” underneath the controversial hilltop Christian cross. Not one journal mentioned that the Supreme Court has upheld the U.S. 9th District Court finding that this towering cross represents an illegal and unconstitutional expression of religion in a public place.
And not one mentioned that there is no consecrated ground there.
Did they forget about Fort Rosecrans, opened in 1879, located on the high spine of Pt. Loma with vistas of San Diego Harbor on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other? Where there are some graves on the east side for those who fought in the American Civil War, 150 years ago? Where the place’s namesake is William Starke Rosecrans, a Union general from that terrible conflict?
Where there are graves from the time of the Spanish-American War of 1898 to liberate Cuba from Spain? And graves from all the other wars –World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan?
How was this possible? I phoned Fort Rosecrans Cemetery to ask if they actually had had Memorial Day services, since there was nothing in the papers other than the one at widely-publicized Mt. Soledad. The man in the office sounded subdued. Oh yes, always, he said, but Mt. Soledad honored the two security contractors — former Navy Seals — who died in the attack last year at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
So this Memorial Day, San Diego’s press noted the death of paid mercenaries, not traditional military sacrifice. And not at observance in our national cemetery, but beneath a Christian cross in the middle of a public park that dates to McCarthy-era Easter sunrise services and that is constantly being embellished by its custodians, the “Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial Association.”
(After a 1989 lawsuit challenged the Cross’ legitimacy, its underlying land was transferred from the City of San Diego to the federal government and U.S. Navy. Architects of that deal were then-Mayor Jerry Sanders, City Council, ex-GOP Congressman Brian Bilbray and late Duncan Hunter, Sr. and Rep. Darryl Issa. Then too was born the “Mt. Soledad Veterans’ Memorial Association” stewards, led by William Kellogg, owner of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. They have high-fenced the cross, built its circular brick platform and steps as well as plastered walls to hold plaques-for-sale, put in lighting and are working on installation of a sound system which can be used at future events.)