Miramar National Cemetery donors plan memorial amphitheater

By PAM KRAGEN | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: September 9, 2020

SAN DIEGO (Tribune News Service) — Since 2010, Miramar National Cemetery has become a permanent resting place for thousands of military veterans in San Diego. But the 313-acre graveyard has never had any permanent seating for visitors seeking a temporary place to rest during veterans events and services. That could soon change.

The Miramar National Cemetery Support Foundation has launched a fall fundraising campaign to raise from $450,000 to $500,000 to fund the construction of an Armed Forces Memorial Amphitheater with permanent bench-like seating on the grassy area in front of the existing flag assembly area. Now, when cemetery visitors arrive to attend Veterans Day, Memorial Day or other commemorative services — events that regular draw 200 or more visitors — they have to sit in folding chairs or stand.

"To accommodate guests at our veterans services in the past, we've had to set up folding chairs in the flag assembly area," said Sallay Kim, Support Foundation vice president. "That's not really satisfactory or comfortable for our guests, especially if the ground is too soft to properly support the chairs. Permanent seating would remedy that situation."

The amphitheater would feature rows of long concrete benches arranged in a semicircle within the flag assembly area. The benches would be fronted with stone matching that used throughout the cemetery. Landscaping would include artificial turf areas between the benches and around the amphitheater perimeter.

The support foundation is a nonprofit organization that has raised money for several other improvements a the cemetery, including its Avenue of Flags and Veterans Tribute Tower and Carillon. It also sponsors the annual Veterans Day and other services. While the Veterans Administration oversees the maintenance of the cemetery and its burials, the foundation must underwrite the cost of cosmetic improvements, as well as the endowment needed to maintain these additions in perpetuity.

"The successful addition of amphitheater seating at Miramar National Cemetery will benefit tens of thousand of veterans, their families, friends and the general public in future years. Hopefully, in gratitude for the service of all veterans, we will receive strong public support" said Denny Schoville, the foundation's chairman of the board.

Since large in-person galas are banned due to the pandemic, the foundation this year is hosting a virtual gala that launched last week. Donations of any amount are being accepted on the foundation's website at gala.miramarcemetery.org.

Miramar National Cemetery, at 5795 Nobel Drive in San Diego, is one of two national cemeteries in San Diego County. Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma closed to interment casketed burials in 1966, though loved ones of those already buried there are still able to be interred with them. Built to house the remains of up to 235,000 veterans and their loved ones, Miramar is expected to have space available for local vets well into the 21st century.

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