Members from the Miramar Semper Fidelis, Mission Bay, La Jolla Sunrise, La Jolla and Torrey Pines Rotary Clubs attended the Torrey Pines Rotary meeting Nov. 12 at the Rock Bottom Brewery, for a collective Veteran’s Day celebration.
Other guests at the meeting included Sgt. Daniel D. Kujanpaa, who received an engraved sword as a gift from the clubs; and Bill Galbraith, who was one of the servicemen who stormed the beach at Normandy during World War II.
Jerry Zampa, Torrey Pines Rotary past president, presented the sword to Kujanpaa as a token of appreciation for his service in the Marines and earning top honors in his class as a non-commissioned officer. Recognizing members of the military is a regular part of the Miramar club’s proceedings, but the Torrey Pines club sponsored the sword.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone here and I appreciate you (giving me) the sword, it means a lot to me,” Kujanpaa said. “I’d love to have the opportunity to sit down with you and hear your stories so they may be passed to future generations.”
The main speaker was Bruce Bailey, CEO/president of Mount Soledad Memorial Association, who provided an update on the memorial site and the association’s efforts to garner national attention. “When we go to Washington D.C. we want to see the Vietnam Memorial, and the Washington and Lincoln Memorials,” Bailey said. “When people from the East Coast come here, we want them to (think about going) to the zoo, the aircraft carrier and Mount Soledad.”
The walls of the memorial, which surround a 29-foot-tall cross, are lined with 3,600 plaques commemorating those who served — living and deceased. Additional walls were recently built so that more names could be added, and there is now room for 2,400 more. The memorial is funded by the sale of plaques, memberships and donations.
Addressing the controversy regarding the symbol of the cross towering over the memorial (the American Civil Liberties Union argues the cross should be removed because it is a religious symbol of one particular faith on public land) Bailey said the Mount Soledad Memorial Association “supports the cross staying where it is, as it is.”
He added, “A lot of people say ‘I don’t want a plaque, I’m not a hero,’ but you know what? If you served your country, you are a hero. We didn’t all have the same missions or branches of service. We spent different amounts of time in the military, but we are all the same. We honor all veterans.”
The association is applying for a permit to get electricity to the site, and members are hopeful excavating to install electrical equipment could begin in the coming weeks with power by the beginning of 2015. Bailey said the plan is to light the stairs and the flag, and install a kiosk so visitors could look up plaque placements.
As the luncheon closed, Galbraith, who recently returned from a visit to Normandy in honor of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, recited a poem from memory. On his jacket was a Legion of Honor ribbon given to him by the French government.
He said, “We’ve only died in vain if you believe so. You decide the wisdom of our choices by the world you build upon our headstones and the everlasting truth that is your voice. Though dead, we are not heroes yet, nor can we be until you the living, with your lives, which are the tools, carve us the epitaph of wise men and give us not the epitaph of fools.”