Mullen Visits Bit of America in Heart of Mexico
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
MEXICO CITY, March 7, 2009 In the heart of this thoroughly Mexican metropolis, there is a little bit America.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks with Superintendent Hector de Jesus at the Mexico City National Cemetery in Mexico City, March 6, 2009. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took time from a busy schedule of meetings with Mexican military and naval leaders yesterday to visit the Mexico City National Cemetery.
The American Battle Monuments Commission oversees the cemetery, where 1,563 Americans are buried. Mullen had finished a meeting with Mexican army Gen. Guillermo Galvan, secretary of national defense, and was on his way to meet with Mexican navy Adm. Mariano Francisco Saynez when he asked to visit the American shrine.
The cemetery contains the remains of 750 Americans killed in the Mexican-American War in 1846 and 1847. “I wanted to pay my respects and honor those who served,” Mullen said. Leslie Bassett, charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy here, accompanied the admiral.
Superintendent Hector de Jesus led the admiral’s party along the cemetery’s paths, pointing out famous and not-so-famous names. He lamented the fact that the admiral wasn’t visiting later in the spring, “when all the flowers will be out.”
But purple bougainvillea blossoms add highlights to the trees, and a variety of flowers bloomed around the monument to those “known but to God.” The grass is perfectly trimmed along the pathways, and hedges allow privacy from the busy city.
“This is reflective of how Americans take care of those who serve and sacrifice,” Mullen said. “There are 24 military cemeteries overseas, and they are all beautifully maintained.”
The cemetery was the first American military cemetery established outside the United States in 1851. Congress authorized $10,000 to buy the land and hired people to collect the remains of 750 American soldiers from shallow graves around Mexico City. There was no way at the time to identify the remains, and they all are buried under a white-marble monument.
A further 813 veterans, members of their families and members of the U.S. Diplomatic Service also are buried at the cemetery. The last burial was in 1924.