Baker Beach was within walking distance from where we lived on the Presidio. From its shores, I could see the soaring span of the Golden Gate Bridge. I’d sit on the sand and watch the fog curl in and out of the bridge’s orange cables while the foghorns moaned.
A few weeks ago, I decided to pay a nostalgic visit to Baker Beach. The beach seemed larger and wider, but the penetrating cold wind off the Pacific hadn’t changed.
I walked the beach and thought of San Francisco in 1969, two years after the Summer of Love. The Viet Nam war was wildly unpopular and protests occurred in the Bay area daily. My Dad served two tours in Viet Nam. I supported the anti-war movement. We didn’t discuss the war.
I left the past and trudged back through the damp beach sand to the parking lot. On a whim, I decided to visit the San Francisco National Cemetery, only a few minutes away from Baker Beach.
As I walked through the gates of the cemetery, I was completely unprepared for the sight of row after row of white markers marching up the hillside and as far as the eye could see.
I began to walk the rows and read the names. Officers lie next to privates. Jews rested by Christians. The Spanish-American War veteran shared the same real estate as the Iraqi Freedom vet. Those who served in the Air Force, the Navy, the Army, and the Marines slept side by side. Women vets from the Korean War and World War II lay next to their brethren.
The tears rolled down my chapped face. So many wars, so many deaths, so much sorrow.
Thank you to all those who have served, especially the Viet Nam vets who never received the recognition they deserved. That includes you, Dad. You served your country. You did your job. You did the best you could. I’m proud of you.