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Medal of Honor Memorial Dedicated in California (corrected copy)

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

RIVERSIDE, Calif., Nov. 9, 1999 – About 85 of the 150 living Medal of Honor recipients attended the dedication Nov. 5 of the Medal of Honor Memorial at Riverside National Cemetery here. Ten widows of recipients also attended.

The memorial honors all 3,410 Medal of Honor recipients. Congress sanctioned this site, along with a memorial in Indianapolis and a museum in Mount Pleasant, S.C., in October in the National Medal of Honor Memorial Act.

In an emotional moment, Defense Secretary William Cohen recognized the recipients during the dedication ceremony by asking them to stand.

"America is eternally indebted to the families of our servicemen who stood -- and continue to stand -- behind each of these heroes," Cohen said in prepared remarks. "It is never too late for us, individually and collectively, to say, 'We recognize your loss. We respect your sacrifice. We thank you.'

"I would like to invite this amazing array of Medal of Honor recipients here today to stand ... so that a grateful nation can honor their service and sacrifice," he said. "I would like their family members and the relatives of all the recipients, past and present, to also stand so that we may pay tribute to you."

Veterans Affairs Secretary Togo West and representatives of all the military services were also in attendance.

Michael Goldware, chairman of the Riverside National Cemetery Medal of Honor Memorial Committee, said the memorial was the brainchild of members of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, whose annual convention was held in Riverside Nov. 3-7. He said they recognized Riverside National Cemetery as an ideal place for the proposed memorial and planned the dedication to coincide with the convention.

He explained that, at 280 acres, Riverside National Cemetery is still only one-third developed. When fully developed, the cemetery will encompass 930 acres. The open-air memorial consists of a plaza surrounded by the flags of all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, representing the homes of the Medal of Honor recipients. Italian Cypress trees, planted in "squads" of

nine, encircle the plaza. Goldware said the $1.7 million required to build the memorial was raised solely through private and corporate donations.

The focal point of the memorial is a water sculpture, a wall of water created by a series of jets. The memorial's designers intended this centerpiece to be "a cool, quiet place for reflection."

The memorial will also feature an interactive computer kiosk. Visitors can use the kiosk to access the history of the medal, photos of recipients and individual citations, Goldware said.

"Among these walls, we hear more than the rousing echoes of the victorious, more than the tragic cries of the fallen. We hear the clear and distant trumpets of battles still to come, the summons to gather our courage and our resolve. And they bid us to preserve freedom in our time in order to honor those who made us free," Cohen said, concluding his remarks.

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Related Sites:
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
U.S. Army Center of Military History Full-text Listings of Medal of Honor Citations

Click photo for screen-resolution imageAvila Villegas and great-nephew Brandon Villegas pour water into the Medal of Honor Memorial pool at the Riverside (Calif.) National Cemetery. Water for the pool was drawn from each of the seven seas with the Navy's assistance. Villegas is the widow of Army Staff Sgt. Ysmael Villegas, who received the Medal of Honor posthumously Oct. 19, 1945, for combat gallantry in the Philippines. Photo by Master Sgt. Bill Kimble, USAF   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSecretary of Defense William Cohen and Medal of Honor recipients tour the Medal of Honor Memorial following it's dedication at the Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, Calif. Photo by MSgt. Bill Kimble, U.S. Air Force   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageRetired Navy Lt. John Finn waves to the crowd in front of the waterfall at the Medal of Honor Memorial in Riverside, Calif. Finn, 90 and the oldest living recipient of the Medal of Honor, earned the award Dec. 7, 1941, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Photo by Master Sgt. Chandra Spicer, USAF  
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