Journal Entry for Sketch #10
May 26th – Memorial Day & First Iraq War
Because I have just arrived back from an out of town trip, I am not planning to visit the cemetery this weekend. However, before leaving the house in the morning, I am moved by a story I read in the paper about a Guatemala boy who was orphaned and then made it to the U.S. with the help of a priest friend. He then made it through High School with a foster family and eventually chose to become a Marine. He was the other man along with Brian Kennedy to die in Iraq on March 21st. Ironically he died of friendly fire. American soldiers had killed him by accident. He was not a U.S. citizen yet.I begin my day by driving to my studio where I plan to work on bills. Then it dawns on me it is Memorial Day and I should be at the cemetery, so I change my plans and dive there- I am not sure what to expect. When I arrive the main drive through the cemetery is lined with parked cars and I realize, of course, people would come to honor war dead here today. There appear to be no parking spaces and I now see I was naïve to think that I would be able to find a space to park on Memorial Day. I decide I will probably just have to go down to the park at the end of the road turn around and go home.
The cemetery is divided into two halves by the road down the middle of Point Loma which eventually ends (just past the cemetery) at the Point Loma National Seashore Park. There are two main gates into the two halves of the cemetery. The gate to the north is the main entrance and this is where the Visitor Center and records kiosk are located. In front of the visitor’s center among gravestones there are three very large (10 ft. X 30 ft) American flags flying on large flagpoles. On the other side of the road the gateway enters into a small gathering plaza where public ceremonies are held.As I drive toward the park where I will turn around, I approach the cemetery gates. About 50 feet from the gates I unexpectedly find an open parking spot. I park no knowing what this will lead to. I walk towards the gates and as I do overhear the announcements from a large gathering of people in the south side plaza. Exactly at the moment I reach the center of the gate openings and am about to enter the South Gate, everyone turns to face me. I am stunned and unsure why I would be such an object of attention until I realize that I had arrived at this place at the exact moment when the flags on the north side of the road were being lowered to half mast to honor the dead. Needless to say I am stunned by the synchronicity of the event.
I proceed after the ceremony is complete to wander the graveyard to see where I will be lead to sketch this day. I am amazed because every grave in the cemetery has been decorated with a small American flag. In addition, some graves have been singled out for special recognition with extra blue flags and plaques for receiving the national Medal of Honor for service above and beyond the call of duty. I later find out that there are only around 22 of these special soldiers in this large cemetery.I have focused my initial intuitions on finding the grave of a WWII or Korean War gravesite. But, apparently I am in the wrong part of the cemetery since the dead here were mostly buried between 1959 and 1961. Then I see a grave that is slightly greener (newer) than others. At first I think it is another Iraq War dead; but then, I see he is from the last war there-Persian Gulf War fought to liberate Kuwait from Iraq.
Kenneth John Hyvonen, Jr.
Lt.Col. US Air Force
“Beloved husband, father & son”
40 years old at death- died coming home from war from unknown cause. I sketch by his grave today. Brilliant sunshine and clear blue skies today.