On this Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of San Diegans spent their Saturday morning placing flags at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery to honor those who died while serving in the U.S. military. Last Memorial Day, the public was not allowed in Fort Rosecrans due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“When I first came out and saw this morning I got chills,” said Deranee Roberts, a U.S. Navy veteran who served in Iraq.
It was the first time Roberts visited the cemetery.
“Me being here, being able to do this, it definitely brought back memories of people I served with,” Roberts said.
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For some volunteers, the placing of flags on tombstones is a family affair.
“I think it’s really that the youth of our country know the importance of this day. And understand the sacrifice made on their behalf so they can know why we have this amazing life in this country. And that’s something that I’m grateful for and I take a lot of pride in,” said Jennie Riddle, a San Diego resident.
Riddle comes from a military family. She took her son to Fort Rosecrans to help place flags.
"It’s a really emotional feeling, to be honest. I feel a deep amount of respect for these people. I can feel their spirit and I can feel their appreciation for our time and effort,” Riddle said.
Bianca Villalobos, 11, has a father who has been deployed for most of her life. At her young age, she appreciates the sacrifice of a military family.
“I like putting up these flags because then they can know that we’re thinking of them,” she said.
U.S. Navy veteran Ericka Jordan comes from a military family as well and understands many of the fallen will never get a visitor.
“A lot of the stones, a lot of the people here don’t have anyone to remember them. So, we’re here to say, we remember you. We want to celebrate you and we want to thank you more importantly,” Jordan said.
Despite the somber mood, there is also a sense of hope as we emerge from this challenging time.
“America always recovers. We’re such a resilient group of people. We always recover,” said Tom O’Reilly, a U.S. Navy veteran.
The 2021 Fort Rosecrans Memorial Day Service will be virtual due to the pandemic. It will be online Monday, May 31 at 10 a.m.