Navy signs Soledad agreement with veterans

An agreement between La Jolla military veterans and the Navy has been finalized to allow the veterans’ group to continue its operations of the half-acre park surrounding the landmark, towering Korean War memorial cross.

An official relationship between the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association, Inc. and the U. S. Navy was finalized in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed recently.

The MOU between the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association, Inc. and the United States of America, acting through the Department of Navy, Commander Navy Region Southwest (CNRSW) is a requirement of U.S. Public Law 109-272 of August 14, 2006, signed by President Bush. The MOU was signed jointly by William J. Kellogg, president of the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association, Inc. and Rear Adm. Len R. Hering, Commander, Navy Region Southwest, headquartered in San Diego.

The MOU provides for the Association to continue maintaining the Memorial, to conduct special events at the site and ultimately to complete the Memorial following the existing plans accepted by the Navy.

The U.S. government has operated the property since a federal bill signed in 2006 by President Bush transfered the cross site from the city of San Diego to the U.S. Department of Defense to be used as a war memorial.

With the completed MOU, the memorial association will now be able to initiate site improvements that will enhance the Memorial and facilitate the basis for its ultimate completion.

“There has been a great spirit of cooperation between the Navy and our Association,” said Kellogg. “The signed MOU now allows us to expand our activities honoring veterans and the active military.”

“I am very pleased to be able to support the Mount Soledad Memorial effort,” said Hering. “It has been a pleasure working with the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association to preserve this significant and unique memorial to U.S. veterans of all wars.”

Charles Berwanger, attorney for the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association, said the MOU is big news for veterans and for San Diego, because it formally sets forth conditions under which veterans can continue to operate and maintain the historic mountaintop cross site. It will also allow the memorial association to complete its long-term project: completion of black granite plaques on the Memorial walls currently honoring more than 2,400 veterans, living and deceased, who participated in wars from the Civil War to the current conflicts in the Middle East. Plaques include a photo image of the veteran along with their military experience.

“This is big news for the association,” said Berwanger. “The association will get some money to complete the memorial and to perform needed repairs and have a fund available for future maintenance and operations of the memorial.”