San Francisco Begins Long-Awaited Veterans Memorial

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    NEWSLETTERS

    City leaders and veteran groups gathered Thursday to begin work on a memorial project. Joe Rosato Jr. reports.

    It’s a battle that’s lasted 80 years, spanned numerous world wars and generations of fighting men and women.

    Tucked into a grassy courtyard between San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House and Veterans’ building, is a spot set aside eight decades ago for a memorial to the nation’s war veterans. Wars came and went -- yet the memorial never came.

    “This building was opened in 1932,” said Korean War veteran Wallace Levin, gesturing to the stately Opera House. “The memorial was supposed to have been part of the veteran’s building.”

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    No one’s sure exactly what took so long for the memorial to take root -- probably apathy, funding, anti-war sentiments, they said. Veterans had long taken to dumping soil collected from world battlefields onto the courtyard. But the pour of concrete and the placing of stone bearing fitting inscriptions never happened.

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    On Thursday, the veteran’s long march to build the memorial finally came to a parade rest. City leaders and veteran groups gathered in the courtyard to shovel the hallowed ground to signify the start of the project – 81 years late.

    “It’s going to have a water fountain,” described retired General Mike Myatt. “And the flow of water signifies the loss of blood.”

    The stone octagon-shaped monument will have a series of reflection pools and water flowing to a lower garden. The project cost $2.5 million which was raised from private donors including the Bechtel Corporation.

    The memorial will also have a place for the soil collected from battlegrounds.

    “It’ll have a way to add soils from future battlefields,” Myatt said. “God help us I wish we didn’t have any.”

    Levin said the memorial sheds more respect for veterans the single holiday reserved for them each year.

    “This memorial will honor the veterans that were killed, 365 days a year,” Levin said. “Which is at least what we could do.”

    During a ceremony on Thursday, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee pledged to have the project finished in time for October’s Fleet Week. He said veterans and history have already waited too long.