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Saturday, November 12, 2005 | San Diego showed its colors as a military town this Veterans Day, as multiple celebrations honored those who served in bygone wars and expressed gratitude to today’s generation of active service members.

The day began as more than 100 Marines and sailors from dozens of countries raised their hands in oath to become U.S. citizens aboard the aircraft carrier Midway museum.

Shortly after, more than 3,500 service members and veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War marched down Park Boulevard in the annual Veterans Day parade, paying homage to all who served the country in wartimes past.

As the parade crowds dispersed in Balboa Park, some stayed behind to observe the dedication ceremony of the recently completed, $1.4 million Veterans Memorial Garden in front of the Veterans Museum and Memorial Park.

Speeches given aboard the Midway emphasized the contributions of the current generation of service members, offering special thanks to those participating in the morning’s ceremony for service they have already performed to America.

Many of the new citizens had completed years of U.S military service and some have been deployed overseas multiple times.

Capt. Tim G. Alexander, commanding officer at Naval Base Coronado, said in a speech that the day celebrated the country’s legacy of “fighting tyranny and oppression.”

New citizens will play an important role in carrying on that legacy because “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” he said, quoting Ronald Reagan.

“Our freedoms exist because you swear by oath to protect them,” Alexander told the sea of faces before him. “They are earned, protected and preserved by each generation.”

Participants in the day’s ceremony said that their newly-acquired citizenship will help them be more productive in the military, by granting access to higher-ranked positions that were previously denied them as foreign nationals.

“It’s like you’re defending somebody else’s country, not your own,” said Filipino-born Ryan Manglicmot, 24, of the years he has already spent working in aviation support for the U.S military. “Now I get to work for my own country.”

Others hope their citizenship will help them bring their families to the United States.

While young service members looked to the future aboard the Midway, the annual Veterans Day parade took a historic spin with the theme “Honoring the Liberators.”

The theme refers to WWII B-24 pilots and crewmembers as well groups who provided home front support during WWII.

Parade organizers estimate that more than 1,000 former pilots and crewmembers of the famous long-range bombers, referred to as “Liberators,” participated in the parade, arriving from all over the country.

The parade paid special tribute to women working as “Rosie the Riveters” in factories on the home front, producing crucial wartime machines and materials, including the B-24 Liberator.

Hundreds of representatives from every conflict since WWII were also seen marching or driving in the event, mingling with high school bands and flag-bearing contemporary regiments.

Event coordinator Karyn Damion of the Veterans Memorial Center said that the parade honored every one of the 300,000 veterans who currently live in San Diego.

For the many veterans who march in the parade year after year, a little public appreciation never grows old.

“When we came back from Vietnam, people would spit on us,” said William Dean, a front-line medic in the Vietnam and Korean conflicts who has been a parade participant for more than 10 years. “The public now seem to have changed. We have people who are proud of their soldiers, even though there are some who don’t understand them.”

Lalo Rodriguez, a veteran of the Korean War who is now a volunteer organizer of military funerals in San Diego, said he is concerned that veterans are still forgotten by the general public.

“We should see more people at events like this, given that San Diego is one of the largest communities for veterans in the nation,” said Rodriguez.

Following the parade, a group gathered in front of the Veterans War Memorial Museum in Balboa Park to celebrate the completion of a War Memorial Garden at “Inspiration Point” overlooking the San Diego harbor.

A portion of a California parks and wetlands grant issued to the city in 2002 was used to fund the $1.4 million project.

The one-acre garden is divided into three sections to individually honor veterans of the “land, sea and sky.”

A reflecting pool and a bronze replica of a B-24 bomber grace the garden grounds.

Please contact Jessica L. Horton directly at

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