Veterans Memorial Dedication Saddleback College

Sergeant Major Ramona D. Cook, USMC, Camp Pendleton


It may have taken six years to accomplish but this collaborative effort to construct a veterans memorial on the campus of Saddleback College by staff, faculty and students is a memorial that I encourage everyone in Orange County to visit. 

Let me not overlook the veterans and local community supporters who helped raise the funds for this monument. The monument was envisioned by former college President Richard McCullough on Memorial Day 2004 to express gratitude for those who have served our nation. And as pointed out by one of the speakers, who could imagine students raising money to honor veterans as he reflected back on the treatment of our returning veterans after the Vietnam War. 

Among the many veterans in attendance was Medal of Honor recipient John Baca who, in 1970, served in the US Army’s First Calvary Division in Vietnam. President Richard Nixon presented the Medal of Honor to John at the White House on June 15, 1971.  

Veterans Memorial..Saddleback College, Mission Viejo


I would be remiss not to point out a unique feature of the design. “The memorial was designed with light in mind. It was built by the artists with an 11/11/11 orientation, meaning that at 11 o’clock a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month (Veterans Day) each year, the soldier in the memorial  will be fully illuminated by the sun. Additionally, during the months of December and January, the sun shines through the east facing side of the memorial, illuminating  the soldier with a halo of light.”    

Medal of Honor recipient John Baca


Sergeant Major Ramona D. Cook, the highest ranking NCO at Camp Pendleton thanked the college for this project. Her bio mentions her being “deployed with Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, ” and later “deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom until March 2005″. “In May of that same year she was recognized by the Congressional Women’s  Caucus as the Outstanding Female Marine Senior Non Commissioned Officer.”    

The flag that was flown over the US Embassy in Vietnam that was raised by three Vietnam vet’s yesterday was “donated to the college by Chapter 785 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, who received the flag from Pete Peterson, the United States first ambassador to Vietnam.”    

I think the Register reporter needs to walk with me at the next event they cover. For some reason I actually counted the chairs and those standing in the rear and sides of this quad. There were 1,000 attendees, not 500 as reported in today’s Register,  but that should not take away from the success of this event.

About Larry Gilbert