Thursday, January 28, 2010

None but the Brave

Last Saturday, after visiting my mom in the hospital, we headed east out to Riverside National Cemetery.  A little over a year ago, I'd been out in the same general area, getting a virtual near March ARB.  The National Cemetery, was just to the west of the Air Base, on the other side of the 215 freeway in Riverside.  I had to cut my caching trip short that day, because of extenuating circumstances, so I wasn't able to go after another virtual cache at the Cemetery.  Fortunately, the Tadpole and I were able to get that particular cache on Saturday.

When we went out there, I was basically unaware of what we were going to be looking for, so I just followed the GPSr to ground zero.  It became rather apparent the closer we got.  There were signs pointing the way to the Medal of Honor Memorial.  This particular memorial, is one of the four official Medal of Honor Memorials located in the United States, which honor all 3000+ Medal of Honor award winners since the inception of the award in 1862.

For the uninitiated, the Medal of Honor is the highest award that can be achieved by any person employed in the armed services for the United States.  It is sometimes called the Congressional Medal of Honor, but that is a misnomer.  The correct term is just Medal of Honor.  There are three different medals, depending upon which branch of service the soldier/sailor is a part.  I'm not sure, but I think one of the attributes of the "official" designation of these memorials is that every person awarded the medal has their named engraved in the memorial.

The other three memorials are located in Pueblo, Colorado, Indianapolis, Indiana and Charleston, South Carolina aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown, which is moored in Charleston Harbor.  The layout of the memorial in Riverside is in the form of a cross, when viewed from satellite images.  Walking up to the memorial takes you past the seals of the different branches of the armed services.  The entrance is guarded by two large reddish brown granite monoliths, which introduce the visitor to the Medal of Honor Memorial, with the western monolith giving the basic criteria for earning a Medal of Honor, that of "conspicuous gallantry and interpidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty."

The center of the memorial is a pool with cascading water.  The water is pumped into a steel rail that is over the top of the pool and water drops from that rail into the pool.  I was so engrossed in other aspects of the memorial, that I failed to even look at how the rail was supported over the pool.  From the entrance, we could look through the water dripping down and see large replicas of the Medal of Honor for each branch of service, from left to right in the picture: Army, Navy, Air Force.

Once inside, the litany of names were engraved on granite walls all around the fountain, starting with winners from the Civil War, all the way around to the two latest from the conflict in Afghanistan.  Due to the nature and criteria of the award, 60% of the award receivers are awarded their medal posthumously.

While getting the information needed for the virtual cache, we ended up going all around the memorial.  We'd have done this anyway and I think we spent a good half hour just in awe of all these brave men, many of whom gave their life for their country.  There were more Civil War veterans listed than any other war, mostly due to looser conditions for the awarding of the medal in the first place.  I'll not quibble with anyone who is on that wall.

As we walked around, I looked for certain people that I was pretty sure were on the wall.   I missed Audie Murphy's name, he being the most decorated soldier in American History, but I was able to find Joshua Chamberlain's name.  Chamberlain commanded the 20th Main Infantry which prevented the Confederate troops from flanking the Union line at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2nd, 1863.  Chamberlain later went on to serve 4 one-year terms as Governor of Maine and would later serve as President of Bowdoin College, his alma mater.  He is featured prominently in the movie, Gettysburg, played by Jeff Daniels.

We also found several servicemen with our surname, plus one of my admired Presidents, Theodore Roosevelt.  On another panel, in another war, was Roosevelt's son, Theodore Jr.    The stories on those walls were endless.  I left thinking that I was glad that I hadn't been able to get this virtual a year ago because the Tadpole would have missed the experience.  Although, I'm pretty sure that I would have taken him back here because he needed to see this.  I'm hoping he'll understand what this was all about in the future.

The encouraging thing about these four memorials is they are spread across the country in a way that almost all Americans living in the contiguous United States are only about a day's drive away from one of the memorials.  Unlike many of the memorials in a city like Washington D.C., where there is only one, people don't have to travel long distances to appreciate the sacrifices made by these men.  In my opinion, that's a good thing.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocache:
Bravest of the Brave - by SlowMover

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