Riverside National Cemetery Story A Field of Warriors
merica always remembers its war dead. Gen. George Washington was so grateful to his soldiers that he created in 1782 the Badge of Merit. He fashioned a purple heart as a piece of cloth, then etched it with silver braid to honor bravery in action during this nationâ€™s infancy. It later became the Purple Heart, a medal proudly worn by those who died or shed blood in combat. Sen. James W. Grimes of Iowa introduced legislation in 1861 to create the Congressional Medal of Honor recognizing the heroics of Union soldiers who displayed extraordinary courage beyond the call of duty. Many of these medals were awarded posthumously. But what about those who simply had the courage and ability to serve their nation, to tend to horses in the cavalry, to fuel the airplanes, to compile the vital personnel records, to explore new territories, to create new medical practices and technology that would extend a soldierâ€™s life in war and peacetime? Each who wears the uniform deserves a special thanks; benefits to help adjust to civilian life, and benefits to endure a life after military service that cost a limb, mental anguish, or other severe disabilities. Most veterans accept their sacrifices, often without medals or ribbons of recognition, as a duty of citizenship. Together veterans keep a high wall of security around a grateful nation. Together, they form an uncommon bond. Many say their military service, even with its physical and mental demands, has been the best years of their lives.
Marine Memorial Honor Detail team Semper Fi #1 folds a flag at RNC.
How do we as Americans honor those who serve and die? We sometimes forget unless it is Veterans or Memorial Day. George Washington summed it up perfectly: The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war no matter how justified shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nations. This book is an effort to help us demonstrate what is being done for American warriors in Southern California, and hopefully, in the future at new national cemeteries. Riverside National Cemetery is a unique, fascinating story that is recounted in these pages, one that needs telling in classrooms, offices, and living rooms. It is a story of fortuitous timing, effective lobbying, intense and unique civic support, as well as devotion from a corps of veterans working to honor their brethren. They volunteer so when the bugle sounds for them one day they, too, receive the recognition to which they are so richly entitled. Riverside National Cemetery remains as special today as it was when it opened. Few, if any, contemporary national cemeteries can match this story.
Chapter One E t e r n a l Re s t
ternal Father, Strong to save, Whose arm hath bound the restless wave, Who bid’st the mighty Ocean deep Its own appointed limits keep; O hear us when we cry to thee, For those in peril on the sea.1 The main gate invites serenity—not sadness—for those who enter from an often traffic-clogged Southern California highway. Traffic whooshing by on old Highway 395 that is now busy Interstate 215 can scarcely be heard once through the stone entrance of Riverside National Cemetery. The serenity is broken by an occasional volley of rifle fire, followed by a bugler sounding “Taps.” On special days, the cemetery can become an outdoor concert hall with music playing from its amphitheater, particularly the “Concert of Heroes” around the first week each July. Enter deeper into the neatly manicured grounds and find a lone figure sitting beside a grave marker, deep in meditation and reminiscing, perhaps about a man or woman, once young and proud to wear a military uniform of blue or green or white. They come to mourn and celebrate seven days a week, braving Santa Ana winds, cold rain, or blistering heat to wander among the rows of headstones until finding the name they seek. Soldier, sailor, marine, airman, or coast guardsman—all are welcome to this place where rank no longer matters as it once did. Each has served honorably, and each will be eternally remembered, if no longer by family, then by a grateful nation. Some died in combat. Some died after leading long and
Flags placed at a gravestone on hallowed grounds at RNC.
rewarding lives. Some endured personal misfortune. Some were combat heroes. Remembering the veterans began during the Civil War, when Congress authorized the purchase of “cemetery grounds” in 1862 to bury the mounting toll from battles that each claimed thousands of lives. From the first fourteen cemeteries that year, the government began operating a system that by 1870 totaled 300,000 Union dead at seventythree national cemeteries, scattered mostly around battleground sites. All honorably discharged veterans became eligible for burial in 1873. Burial grounds were created as this nation moved into new territories in the nineteenth century. Congress created the independent American Battle Monuments Commission in 1923 to bury the war dead in foreign countries, mainly in Europe from World War I and World War II. New national cemeteries were established in the 1930s to serve veterans in major metropolitan areas. Several cemeteries around historic battlefields, like Gettysburg, Chattanooga, Antietam, and Rock Island, were transferred to the National Park Service to administer. The National Cemetery System was changed by the Veterans’ Benefits Enhancement Act to the National Cemetery Administration in 1998, which now administers 119 of the 135 national cemeteries. Two national cemeteries, Arlington in Virginia and Soldiers Home in Washington, D.C., are administered by the Army, and fourteen—most of which are Civil War gravesites—are maintained by the Department of Interior. The Riverside National Cemetery Story covers an audacious history spanning more than thirty years. Strong-willed veterans and
1. “The Navy Hymn,” lyrics by The Rev. William Whiting, 1860; music by The Rev. John B. Dykes, 1861.
An Air Force C-17 Globemaster assigned at nearby March Air Reserve Base flies over RNC.
Facing page top: Helen Nelson (left) and Tami Richter at the columbarium niche of Helenâ€™s husband, Archie Nelson, a WWII veteran and a POW for three months in Germany. Richter was a caregiver for Archie Nelson.
Art Linaker, Marine Corps
Facing page bottom:
veteran, WWII, places his hand
An aerial photo of RNC
on the columbarium niche where
of the administration
his wife is inurned at RNC. He
building and main front
visits the site regularly.
lakes. At the top right is a columbarium with a funeral being held at a
The columbarium niche where
committal shelter near
Archie Nelson, a WWII veteran
it. (Photo courtesy of
and a POW for three months in
Scott Miller of Riverside
Germany, is inurned at RNC.
County Sheriffâ€™s Department.)
Lt. Col. “Hap” Arnold (far right), a March Field commander, hosted many Hollywood celebrities at the base, including 1930s film star Wallace Beery, posed here with his two sons. (Courtesy of March Field Story.)
A Name to Remember To lose an only child in wartime is particularly unbearable,
Army Gen. Peyton C. March, father of March
but for an important Army general responsible for the lives of tens
of thousands of soldiers, the loss must have been an impossible
(Courtesy of Department
distraction at the worst possible time.
of Defense archives.)
Born during the Civil War in Easton, Pennsylvania, Peyton Conway March was the son of a noted linguist who was one of the first professors to advocate and teach English at the university level. March attended Lafayette College where his father, Francis, taught, but received an appointment to West Point in 1884, graduating four years later. An artillery officer, the first lieutenant was sent to the Philippines in the Spanish-American War with a battery he organized, according to Army archives. He was quickly appointed as an aide to Gen. Arthur MacArthur Jr., father of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Promoted to major, March continued
to serve in the Philippines as a provincial gover-
Officer’s Club, later to be
nor after the war. In 1903, March was transferred
renamed in honor
to Fort Riley, Kansas, to command a field artillery
of Gen. “Hap”
battery and was later sent to Washington, D.C., to
serve on the newly created General Staff.
courtesy of March
During World War I, the one-star general
Air Reserve Base
commanded an artillery brigade and rose to two-
star general to command nearly all artillery units March Field in the 1930s. (Photo courtesy of March Air Reserve Base archives.)
March Field Post Headquarters in the 1930s.
Combat crews at
(Photo courtesy of March Air Reserve Base
March Field, 1936.
(Photo courtesy of March Air Reserve Base archives.)
with the American Expeditionary Forces under the command of Gen. John J. Pershing. In March 1918, he was recalled to Washington, where he
2nd Lt. Peyton C. March Jr., son of Army Chief of Staff Peyton C. March, was killed in flight training in 1918. March Field was named in his honor on March 20, 1918. (Courtesy of March Field Story.)
took over as acting Army chief of staff, was quickly promoted to chief of staff, and then served in that capacity as a four-star general until retiring in 1921. His namesake was killed weeks before March was named chief of staff, a position that involves leadership of all Army forces. Naming a brand new air base after his son was no doubt as much a tribute to the father as to the son. March’s influence over the Army at the time was pivotal in creating new technical branches including the Air Corps, Chemical Warfare Corps, Transportation Corps, and Tank Corps. He is credited with modernizing the U.S. Army and preparing it for combat in World War I. However, he disagreed with President Woodrow Wilson’s decision to send troops to North Russia and Siberia in 1918, and argued with General Pershing over Pershing’s indepenB-17B bomber from WWII that was flown
(Courtesy of March Air Reserve Base archives.)
by a bombardment wing at March Field. March Field in the 1920s. (Photo
Cadets waiting their turn to fly
courtesy of March Air Reserve
at March Field in 1918. (Photo
courtesy of March Air Reserve
It is parked on the flightline parking ramp. (Photo courtesy of March Air Reserve Base archives.)
dent command of the American Expeditionary Force during the war. He died in 1955 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, where his son was buried after his tragic flying accident.
Base archives.) 24
March Field flight training during WWII. (Photo courtesy of March Air Reserve Base archives.)
Camp Haan during its WWII heyday on the site where RNC is now located. (Photo courtesy of March Field Air Museum archives.)
Army soldiers train at Camp Haan during WWII. (Photo courtesy of March Field Air Museum archives.) Army life at Camp Haan
C-17 cargo plane from March Air Reserve
during WWII. (Photo
Base flies near RNC.
courtesy of March Field Air Museum archives.) The first B-52 arrives at March Air Force Base on September 16, 1963. (Photo courtesy of March Field Air Museum archives.)
O l d S i n g l e En g i n e Stan Brown is known as much for his years as a retired general officer and Riverside civic leader as he is for his service in the Air Force. A retired brigadier general, Brown has had a hand in shaping the future of Riverside National Cemetery since it was an idea in the 1970s. But few civilians know of or call him by his military nickname: Single Engine. A fuss-budget about orderliness, Gen. Brown tends to his yard with the same fastidiousness that he expected of the men and women who served under his command. No fallen leaf or faded bloom is left untended, just as he expected his people to never dishonor the uniform with sloppy dress or unshined shoes. His attention to culinary detail in the kitchen makes him a rival to any top-flight restaurant chef. His roots are in Champaign, Illinois, where his father was a highly decorated police officer who helped foil a residential robbery in 1929, serving thirty-five years on the force despite being on infamous gangster Al Capone’s hit list. Brown, more interested in football, baseball, and basketball than academics, confirmed his dream of a flying career when he saw a famed World War II flying ace, Army Maj. Dominic Salvatore Gentile, land at a new runway outside of town. Two lackluster years at the University of Illinois were interrupted when he was almost drafted in 1950 as the Korean War began, but he later obtained his bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska and earned graduate degrees from two military post-graduate schools. Instead of going into the Army, Brown chose the Air Force, where he attained the rank of staff sergeant until receiving a direct commission as a second lieutenant in 1953. He earned his pilot’s wings the next year. Gen. Brown served as a fighter-reconnaissance pilot in Japan until he was transferred to Gen. LeMay’s famed 305th Bomb Wing at Bunker Hill Air Force Base, Indiana, to be a member of the Strategic Air Command that would soon get the B-58 supersonic bomber. His flightsuit name-tag read “S. E. Brown,” prompting his commanding officer to dub him “Single Engine” Brown for his passion and desire to fly fighter aircraft. The nickname stuck. Later assignments took him twice to the Strategic Air Command headquarters and three stints at the Pentagon. During the Vietnam War, Brown flew more than 800 combat hours as a pilot and commander. His first assignment at Riverside’s March Air Force Base came in 1973 in aircraft maintenance. He shortly became base commander, then vice wing commander, and finally wing commander of the 22nd Bombardment Wing at March. As a general officer and after serving as SAC’s chief of programs, Brown commanded the Defense Nuclear Agency at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, before retiring in 1983. Among his decorations are the Defense Service Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and seven Air Medals. He amassed more than 6,000 flying hours. Gen. Brown’s military career is chock full of anecdotes of fast planes, challenging missions, close calls, and serving with and meeting commanders and pilots who later became military legends. A tough taskmaster who demanded excellence from his people, Brown ushered any under-achiever out the door to maintain the Strategic Air Command’s and Gen. LeMay’s legendary warrior mentality. An unusually exciting moment came late in his career as a general officer aboard SAC’s “Looking Glass” command and control aircraft that always keeps watch for missile attacks on the U.S. Alerted by his radar operators of a possible missile launch from the northern hemisphere, Gen. Brown was initiating procedures to launch a retaliatory missile strike when NORAD realized those radar images were unidentified space clutter. After retirement, Gen. Brown worked for Northrop Aircraft Corporation as a member of a small advisory group for Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tom V. Jones and was vice president of ASTEC/ MCI Manufacturing, Inc. and chairman and chief executive officer for AMCI in San Jose before retiring in 1995. He and his late wife of fifty-two years, Beverly, have three sons: Stan “Tad” of Riverside and Brad “Boomer” and Gilbert “Tiger,” who currently reside in Virginia. Brown is active in the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce and serves on the Riverside Planning Commission. He currently is serving his second term on the National Cemetery Administration’s Advisory Committee on Cemeteries and Memorials that plans the future of the vast Veterans Administration cemetery system. He also is a longtime member of the U.S. Air Force Academy Falcon Foundation. 54
A KC-135 refueler from March Air Reserve Base flies past the Italian cypresses that are a part of the Medal of Honor Memorial at RNC. The trees represent soldiers.
A field of warriors at peace. Air Force Brig. Gen. Stan Brown with his son, 1st Lt. Bradley
A duck swims in one of five
small man-made lakes at RNC
in front of a B-52 at
which are used as reservoires
Carswell Air Force
to water the grounds.
Base, Texas, in 1981 as part of an Air Force feature on fathers and sons flying the mighty bomber. Gen. Brown was then assigned as Strategic Air Command’s chief of programs at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. His son was assigned as a B-52 pilot with Carswell’s 43rd Bomb Wing. (Photo courtesy of the Air Force.)
The F i r s t Me m o r i a l
Medal of Honor Memorial at night when names of heroes glow in their honor.
time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up…” Ecclesiastes 3:1.
It is one of the most elite veterans groups in the world. To gain membership, a combat veteran must not only receive the nation’s highest decoration for valor, but survive to tell about it. And telling the story of each member’s patriotic exploits is one of the prime reasons the Congressional Medal of Honor Society holds a convention every two years in cities willing to host the members whose ranks are diminishing as the older members die. The host city usually invites these heroes to public events to share their thoughts about military service, patriotism, and sacrifice. Attorney Michael Goldware, son of David Goldware and a former schoolteacher as well as an avid history buff, invited five local veterans to participate in a panel discussion about patriotism in 1996. Two of the panelists were Medal of Honor recipients Mitchell Paige and Robert Bush, both of whom resided in the Coachella Valley at the time. Goldware was so impressed with their stories that he wanted to do another panel discussion. Paige and Bush told Goldware about their regular conventions, where similar panels are organized for the public. Hosting such a convention would require considerable work, and Goldware knew it would take at least two years to organize the funding and all the necessary details. In the fall of 1997, Goldware and a delegation of Mayor Ron Loveridge, a University of California, Riverside political science professor; UCR Vice Chancellor James Erickson; and Ted Weggeland, a former state assemblyman then active in civic affairs, traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas, to pitch the idea to the Society members for hosting the next convention 57
in 1999. It was rumored that Riverside was competing against cities of St. Louis, Missouri, and Houston, Texas, but Goldware never saw any delegations from those cities. Mayor Loveridge told the members about the city of Riverside and its history. Erickson discussed veterans and issues of importance to them in the Inland region, home to about 80,000 veterans. Weggeland discussed the Mission Inn, where he was the right-hand man for Inn owner Duane Roberts, who had purchased and renovated the historic hotel that had become a focal point for Riverside’s downtown revitalization. Goldware told them why it was so important for the public to honor heroes, and why Riverside was the perfect site to provide that honor. “They were sold.We knew before we left the room that we had it,” Goldware said. In August 1997,Goldware organized a twentytwo-member committee that met monthly to plan the event.The Society’s convention always concluded with an emotional memorial ceremony to honor those members who had died since they last met. At that time, the Society had 150 members, but some were in poor health. What a fitting conclusion, Goldware thought, to hold the service at a new memorial dedicated to Medal of Honor recipients. Nowhere else in the nation was there such a public memorial, except a small one in the Midwest and at the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s headquarters in South Carolina. The committee established a second Medal of Honor Memorial non-profit organization specifically to create, design, and raise funds for the memorial. Riverside cemetery director Jorgensen enthusiastically endorsed the project. “The Medal of Honor Memorial wasn’t simple or easy. But look at who you are honoring! That helped. The group we were honoring, the Congressional Medal of
The Ve t e r a n s Me m o r i a l
will establish peace in the land that you may lie down to rest without anxiety.” Leviticus 2:6.
Artists with words, paint, or bronze find their most creative voices in tributes to the fighting spirit of the American warrior. One such artist has captured that spirit in a poignant statement found at Riverside National Cemetery. The combat boots first catch the eye. The lifeless body lies beneath a tarp. The top of the thirteen-foot memorial serves as a medic’s symbolic stretcher. He could be a Marine or soldier, airman or sailor, white, American Indian, African-American, or AsianAmerican. In fact, the body could be that of a woman. The more one stares at it, the more the memorial becomes a searing reminder for those viewing the memorial of any war at any time in modern history. It came from the contemplations of an artist who never served in the military, yet has captured the emotion of his subjects. His body of work attests to his compassion for the warrior spirit. A. Thomas Schomberg’s works of art are known to collectors from throughout the world. To those less inclined to comb art museums in favor of movie theaters, his statue of Rocky Balboa, the gritty and beloved pugilist from “Philly,” graces the front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as seen in the movie Rocky III. Muscled arms upraised in triumph, legs dancing with energy, stomach rippled with muscle sufficient to take a punch. It is Sylvester Stallone, frozen perfectly as a triumphant warrior. In fact, Stallone, also an artist, was such a fan of Schomberg that he commissioned him to do the statue for his movie and posed for Schomberg as he sketched his first idea for the statue. The statue has become so popular among boxing and movie fans that
Veterans Memorial, the second memorial dedicated.
Schomberg created a one-foot-tall version that is available to the public. He has been encouraged to create miniature versions of all his works of art. No less dramatic than Rocky, Schomberg’s work of the dead soldier, draped with a tarpaulin, provides the evocative statement of Riverside National Cemetery in the Veterans Memorial near the cemetery’s entrance.Another statement of Schomberg’s that tells of the courage and sacrifice of veterans is the War Dog Memorial at the March Field Air Museum that depicts a vigilant German Shepherd and his handler moving into danger. The artist who divides his creative time between studios in Colorado and the Coachella Valley is working on a third veterans monument, the American Indian Veterans Memorial that will be added to the Riverside field of heroes. Schomberg is dedicated to bringing artwork out of the museums and into the public setting, where more people with less means can appreciate art, just as those who have a passion to browse art galleries or collect art for their private homes and offices do. He is a teacher and a scholar who loves to talk about history and how art can tell the story of mankind. And what better place to teach history, patriotism, honor, and sacrifice, especially for students in their formative years, than at Riverside National Cemetery. “Art should be available to the public,” Schomberg said during a break from his work. “This is really the hallmark of what I do in my career.” Ancient Greeks had the same idea more than 2,500 years ago. The Greeks believed in leaving visual images to the public as a reminder of their power and influence. Art can be best appreciated outdoors, he said. A national veterans cemetery is perfect for
2005, the Support Committee separated from the joint fundraising effort for the POW/MIA Memorial and worked independently from the Monuments and Memorials Committee. While the Support Committee is working to raise funds for a Buffalo Soldiers Memorial
to honor African-American Army soldiers during the nineteenth century, the Monuments and Memorials Committee continues raising funds for those memorials in the Long Range Plan approved by the National Cemetery Administration, such as the American Indian Veterans Memorial, as well as the Purple Heart and the Blue Star memorials. Millett—the artist, the veteran,the patriot—is working on the design for the Buffalo Soldiers Memorial, but the POW/MIA Memorial is closest to his heart. “So many Americans, so many of our people, are unaccounted for. I can’t get that out of my mind.” Will Americans continue to remember? Will Capt. Browning’s fate ever be resolved?
Lee Millett holds his dad’s Medal of Honor coin, his own dog tags and the dog tags of his dad and his brother, and a wristband honoring a Vietnam War POW.
As Angel Orozco, a Marine veteran, waits to participate in the Roll Call Project at RNC, he looks at the POW/ MIA Memorial nearby around 2:30 a.m. with a flashlight. Linda Brown-Johnson of Washington wipes away a tear as she looks at the POW/MIA Memorial at RNC. She had a relative who served in and was killed during the Vietnam War. She also knew a POW. Top: The POW/MIA Memorial shows a prisoner of war whose arms and hands are restrained.
Engraved names of Medal of Honor recipients on the wall of the Medal of Honor Memorial.
California Native Indian Gaming Association, and the National Indian Gaming Association. Each has endorsed the project for the Veterans Administration.The National American Indians Veterans Organization unanimously endorsed the memorial project. The message is being taken far beyond Southern California and to each tribe that this memorial is critical for educating a public and future generations that American Indians have always defended their native land and will always continue. “It’s our land,” Lyons proudly proclaimed.“We will always defend this land.” American Indians are anxious to begin construction on a project awaiting final review by the National Cemetery Administration. The proposed American Indian Veterans Memorial, one of many envisioned for the cemetery in coming years, will complement the National Medal of Honor Memorial, as well as the Veterans Memorial and the National POW/MIA Memorial.That’s because American Indians are listed on the Medal of Honor Memorial’s black granite walls as receiving the nation’s highest decoration for valor. Six have received this honor dating back to World War II. Another twelve Indian scouts for the U.S. Army in the nineteenth century
Don Loudner, a recently appointed member of the National Cemetery Administration’s Advisory Committee on Cemeteries and Memorials, is also commander of the newly formed American Indian Veterans Organization. The veterans organization only took five minutes to endorse the project after hearing a presentation from Lyons and Brig. Gen. Stan Brown, chairman of the Riverside National Cemetery Monuments and Memorials Committee.
Above and right: An artist’s conception of the American Indian Veterans Memorial, which will be located on the lower main lake near the entrance of RNC. (Courtesy of Baxter Miller.)
were decorated with the Medal of Honor. American Indians have also been listed as missing in action and held prisoner of war. And Indians are honored for their valiant military service as part of the purpose for their American Indian Veterans Memorial. But American Indians deserve their own special memorial, one that can inspire all who visit Riverside National Cemetery. 76
“Indians don’t wait to be drafted. The majority are all volunteers.When a war starts, we all decide we are needed,” Loudner said, a retired Army warrant officer. Recognition for their service often comes late—or not at all. Loudner points to the belated recognition of Army Master Sgt. Woodrow W. Keeble, a Sioux who was awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush in 2008—twentyeight years after his death. President Bush
Cemetery Administration to consider incorporating into its own ideas and plans for future expansion of Riverside National Cemetery during the next fifty years. Each proposed memorial takes years of planning and millions of dollars in fundraising. The federal approval process that begins with an idea and ends with a memorial’s dedication is arduous and fraught with delays, detours, and impediments. But the Long Range Plan remains a flexible document that helps planners prepare as the cemetery moves southward past the National Medal of Honor Memorial into undeveloped land and provides a logical road map. In the future, Riverside National Cemetery hopefully will be accessible from a new East Gate entrance adjacent to Interstate 215 that will channel traffic into new burial areas, and a southerly gate off Nandina Street as the expansion nears completion of the nearly thousand acres with more than one million veterans and spouses buried on these hallowed grounds. Before Baxter Miller came aboard the planning project, the proposed monuments and memorials were not much more than grand ideas. Miller and his wife, Debbie, were ideal for the project when Supervisor John Tavaglione and retired Brig. Gen. Stan Brown called them regarding fundraising for the National Medal of Honor Memorial. Both he and his wife grew up with Air Force parents and immediately saw the project as a labor of patriotic love, and volunteered to help. “As a landscape architect, I find Riverside National Cemetery
Baxter Miller, a landscape architect who helped to design a long-range plan for the future of RNC.
An architect’s rendering of the Long Range Plan for RNC. (Courtesy of Baxter Miller.)
designer wants each memorial to say something specific and different to the viewer. Some should be subdued in appearance while others should be soaring and provide a poignant exclamation point to the cemetery. “Overall, the design must be very calm. Nothing startling.” In Washington, D.C., the monuments and memorials are distinct with white granite or marble. Miller sees the design at Riverside incorporating more earth tones with bronze accents. He said the fundamental marching order he received from the Monuments and Memorials Committee was to make the plan educational for the public—particularly the young adults, students, and children. With Miller’s input and the Monuments and Memorials Committee’s recommendation, the National Cemetery Administration is developing a step-by-step procedure that could and should be used in other national cemeteries that want to emulate what is being done here
uniquely interesting.” It represents the 1970s style of landscape architecture, something he enjoys visually because its overall design only gets better with age. His job was to incorporate modern designs to complement the first architect’s original designs in 1977. Miller sees the Long Range Plan as a natural progression from the original concept. “There are only a few places you can put monuments in a national cemetery. Riverside had the round-abouts.” The man-made lakes and the main entrance are natural sites to enhance with other monuments and memorials. It was a simple plan on which to build using Miller’s talent, ideas, and the input from the Monuments and Memorials Committee. “There’s a different aspect about the memorials. You want each to be unique.” A 82
at Riverside. “The battle has been won,” he said of the time-consuming process of presenting the recommendation to the Veterans Administration. Riverside National Cemetery truly is unique in having such a road map, the architect said.“Most civic groups do not have the energy, focus, or funds to work on longrange projects” as those at Riverside who are guiding the planning process. Miller said the proposed memorials must be built to last at least fifty years. Each design must stand as a testament to an era, not a particular year. “You don’t want something that dates a particular monument and has to be revised or corrected in the future. Our job is to come up with a memorial we can live with and can afford to build.” The Monuments and Memorials Committee is planning to incorporate high technology to aid public viewing of memorials that not only provide a vivid message but also an opportunity to learn about the events and indi-
H o n o r , D u t y, a n d C o u n t r y
The Semper Fi #1 Marine Memorial Honor Detail team folds an American flag at RNC.
reater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12.
Walk through Riverside National Cemetery any weekday to hear the volleys of rifle fire coming from various sections. One volley, followed by a second, then a third. The occasional wind that sweeps through the grounds carries the cracks of rifle fire that come almost like clockwork. The volleys and trumpet notes of “Taps” are heard much more often since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began. So far, more than seventy casualties from both wars are buried here. More will come. “Taps” has become a normal sound nowadays. For a period before 1996, that trumpet was muted. The vision for Riverside National Cemetery in the beginning was that March Air Force Base could play an important role by providing the necessary Honor Guard Details to render rifle salutes, escort duty, a bugler, a flag-folding team, and a chaplain, if necessary, for not only active duty personnel but any veteran’s family who requested the services. The Persian Gulf War in 1990 made providing such Honor Guard teams a commitment only when honor teams were available. And when March Air Force Base was downsized to a reserve installation, the main unit on base, the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, was even more hard-pressed to provide teams upon request. The problem of finding Honor Guards on a regular basis only worsened over the years as the Defense Department reduced the numbers of people in uniform. Federal law is very clear about providing honors for any veteran’s family that requests an Honor Detail. And the Defense Department has a twelve-page order that establishes how 87
these honors must be performed. No convicted felon and no veteran dishonorably discharged may receive these honors. The law defines a military funeral Honor Detail as consisting of two or more uniformed military persons, with at least one being a member of the veteran’s parent service of the armed forces. The law also calls for funeral directors to request military funeral honors on behalf of a veteran’s family. Moreover, the Veterans Administration or National Cemetery Administration staff can also assist with arranging military honors at national cemeteries. At Riverside National Cemetery, these honors are arranged for veterans who have no living family to request them. The cemetery ceremoniously honors those without family in a special monthly ceremony. For years, retired Coast Guard chaplain Norm Goodwin officiated at those services. No one is forgotten. But years ago, the military funeral honors program was strapped because of the wartime demands on the military. Various Inland Empire veterans service organizations were providing Honor Guard teams to their members and others when requested, but Riverside County Veterans Service Director Bill Densmore began fielding more and more calls from families unable to find any available Honor Guard team to render honors at their veteran’s funeral. Densmore, a Coast Guard veteran and an original member of the Monuments and Memorials Committee, could only find one other organized, all-volunteer Honor Guard. Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was the first to organize its Memorial Rifle Squad in 1979 with approval from the National Cemetery Administration. That team has since rendered honors to about 50,000 veterans over the years. Densmore
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Sepulveda, 2nd Lt. Joshua
Army Capt. Joe Sainz, a Vietnam veteran, presents
Fabricatore, Staff Sgt. Rito Yzarraraz, and Staff
the American flag to the family of a veteran during a
Sgt. Michael Elkins salute during a ceremony
funeral as part of the Memorial Honor Detail. He is a
on Memorial Day.
member of Memorial Honor Detail team #47.
The Memorial Honor Detail escorts a casket to a committal for a funeral service. Left to right are Don Underwood, Richard Burns, William Pugh, and Royce Simon, all with Semper Fi #1.
Staging area at RNC used for funerals. Right: Funerals are held at committal shelters.
Memorial Honor Detail (Marines). Front to back are Craig Worden, Gary Enochs, Mike Castillo, Bruce Guthrie, and Jim Coen firing a rifle volley
Enoch “Mac” McClain, Marine Memorial
during a funeral.
Honor Detail, folds a flag for a family during a funeral service.
Hermelinda Bell receives a flag from the Linda Rose Lee receives a flag during a
Memorial Honor Detail at RNC during a funeral
funeral for her father, Michael Serio, a WWII
service for her husband, William Matthew Bell, a
(Marine) veteran. Next to her is Maud Serio,
Korean and Vietnam War veteran.
Michael Serio’s former wife. At far left is Michael Serio’s daughter, Annette Fayad. 90