From the Mexican-American War to Afghanistan, they served and died
Gretel C. Kovach of the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper reports that our nation’s war dead were once buried where they fell in battle, far from home and mournful hands to lay a wreath of flowers across their grave.
During the Civil War, the deaths of some 620,000 Americans inspired the establishment of national veterans cemeteries and what is now known as Memorial Day. Yet the great span of military history in San Diego — borne by native sons and daughters who died in distant wars and strangers who fought here to the death — stretches further back in time.
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, with its columns of white headstones and panoply of older monuments marching across the bluffs of Point Loma, is a poignant reminder of that history of service and sacrifice.
The oldest killed in action and later buried at Fort Rosecrans died in 1846 in the Battle of San Pasqual, California’s bloodiest conflict during the Mexican-American War and conquest of the state. Among them was Capt. Benjamin D. Moore, a 36-year-old from Paris, Kentucky serving in the Army dragoons — infantrymen who fought on horse and mule. He had charged ahead of his men to confront the Mexican commanding general alone.
Army Cpl. Kenneth Necochea Jr., a 21-year-old San Diegan sent to Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division, is the most recent. Necochea, who was killed with five other US soldiers late last year in a suicide car bomb attack, was buried at Fort Rosecrans in December. He had not expected to return home from his first combat tour alive.
On Memorial Day, when Americans pause to reflect on those fallen from the ranks, it bears remembering how these two soldiers laid to rest in San Diego lived and died.