In addition to backyard barbeques, many people like to celebrate Memorial Day by visiting military icons and memorials. Being a military town, San Diego has some wonderful sights to see. One of my favorite places is just south of the airport and north of Seaport Village, where several great memorials pay tribute to our nation’s finest.
The most obvious of these is the USS Midway (CVB-41), a spectacular floating museum. Self-guided audio tours allow guests to wander the decks and get a first-hand view of what it was like to serve aboard this enormous aircraft carrier. Commissioned in 1945, the Midway was the longest serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century. She was decommissioned in 1992, shortly after serving in Operation Desert Storm. Making her way to San Diego, the Midway opened as a museum in 2004.
Guests can visit the galley, chow line, post office, chapel and sick bay on the lower decks. Enlisted sailor quarters, engineering, the brig and restored aircraft are on display on the hanger deck. The flight deck houses additional aircraft, radio room, Captain’s cabin, and the Admiral’s quarters. In addition to interactive displays and exhibits, former sailors of the Midway serve as docents. When my sister and I toured the ship, we spent several minutes in the galley talking with a former cook who described his naval adventures in vivid detail! It was awesome listening to him talk.
The tour ends on the flight deck where guests can wander among the restored planes, and take in the incredible views of San Diego. Across the bay is the North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado. When this picture was taken, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) was in port.
Just south of the Midway, is the iconic statue Unconditional Surrender. The 25-foot monument is a three-dimensional interpretation of the famous World War II photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, New York on August 14, 1945, following the announcement of V-J Day.
Next to the statue, is the National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military. This spectacular site is a circle of life-size bronze sculptures, each depicting a soldier from a particular era. In the center is the figure of Bob Hope at the microphone, just as he would have been as he performed for the troops overseas. Beginning in 1943 and continuing over fifty years, Bob Hope dedicated himself to visiting US service men and women all over the world. His ability to bring a bit of normal to the war front earned him a special place in the hearts of countless soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines. A unique bond of comfort and camaraderie was forged during those performances, and it was that reciprocal fondness that the artists hope to portray in the Salute.
Each branch of the service is represented in the figures of the audience, as are the various eras of Bob Hope’s career from World War II through the Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War, and the first Persian Gulf War. Some of the bronze sculptures include a paratrooper, an infantryman, a fighter pilot, an artilleryman, an aircraft mechanic, a sergeant, a medic and a nurse.
What is really cool about this tribute is that a loudspeaker provides audio of one of Bob Hope’s performances. Visitors can walk among the bronze audience, and listen to the show alongside these silent warriors. It is a real treat, and allows us to reflect on the men and women who served in years past as well as those who serve now.
Adjacent to this site there are four other military related monuments, including the Homecoming sculpture, the Aircraft Carrier Memorial obelisk, the Battle of Leyte Gulf monument and the USS San Diego (CL-53) Memorial.
Lastly, after spending the afternoon visiting these iconic landmarks, you’ll probably be hungry, and there is no finer example of San Diego cuisine than The Fish Market next door! It is my favorite restaurant, and I always make a point to visit when I am in town. While everything on the menu is superb, the garlic bread and crab cakes are mouthwatering. The Fish Market provides an awesome view of both the Midway as well as any naval vessels that come into port at North Island across the bay.
An exceptional dinner, a glass of wine, and watching the sun set over Coronado—all quintessentially San Diego. Just lovely!
If you happen to find yourself in San Diego, I encourage you to visit these great sites that honor our military. Not only are they educational, but they are fun sights to see for the whole family. Best of all they remind us that we are blessed beyond measure to have the greatest military in the world.
This Memorial Day, we are happy to remember the men and women, past and present who’ve put themselves in harm’s way to keep the rest of us safe. We remember their service. We remember their sacrifice. We remember their families in our prayers. And we are grateful that they chose to serve. May we be ever mindful of just how much it has cost them.
“America’s fighting men and women sacrifice much to ensure that our great nation stays free. We owe a debt of gratitude to the soldiers that have paid the ultimate price for this cause, as well as for those who are blessed enough to return from the battlefield unscathed.” –Allen Boyd
On the journey toward Home,