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New app, history projects coming to La Jolla's Soledad Memorial

To start the self-proclaimed “new chapter” for the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial, the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial Association (MSNVMA) is planning three projects to bring the Memorial into a new era.

“We’re launching and developing a number of initiatives to not only bolster the recognition of the Memorial’s national status, but to enhance the experience for people who are up there,” said Tim Chelling, the Association’s executive director.

Three, in particular, are set to go live by the end of the year: a veteran’s history project, a student veteran docent program and the development of a locator app.

For the veteran’s history and the student veteran docent programs, the Association will partner with San Diego State University.

“There are almost 5,000 plaques up there and just as many stories,” Chelling explained. “You see stories on the plaques, but they’re really abbreviated. We’re going to try and contact (these veterans or their families) and record the history of their stories and make these available to visitors who go up to the memorial.”

Because of its large student veteran program, working with SDSU was a natural fit. “But we’re going to tap all major universities in San Diego for student veterans to bolster the docent program we have. These are people who’ve served overseas and around the world. They have that service as a part of their life experience; it’s a special kind of perspective, maturity and skillset.”

With the locator app (similar to the “find a grave” apps used in cemeteries), visitors will be able to locate a specific plaque. “The app is currently in development, and the oral histories could be available there. The beauty of an app is it can be built out once it goes live. We’re going to have a beta test of the app later this year,” Chelling said.

“The La Jolla community is the key in all this. We always look forward to hearing from people with how they’d like to contribute on any level and to hear their ideas for continuing to make this memorial great.”

Those who know a student veteran or someone with a plaque on the Memorial to contribute to the history project, may call the Association at (858) 459-2314 or visit soledadmemorial.com

The Mt. Soledad Memorial was in litigation for almost 30 years with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which argued that the large, white cross at the top of the memorial should be removed from government-owned property because the symbol appeared to endorse one religion over another. In July 2015, the Department of Defense sold its half-acre parcel to the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association, and when the sale was complete, the property became privately-owned, nullifying the dispute.

This year’s Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial Association Veterans Day celebration is 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11 at the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial, 6905 La Jolla Scenic Drive South. Distinguished Air Force aviator Jacqueline Cochran will be honored with a plaque, and NASA astronaut and former CEO of the Museum of Flight, Bonnie Dunbar, will speak. (858) 459-2314. soledadmountain.com

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