OCEANSIDE — MiraCosta College will honor fallen American troops when it dedicates a new Veterans Memorial Garden at an 11 a.m. Nov. 8 ceremony at its Oceanside Campus, 1 Barnard Drive.The ceremony will feature El Camino High School ROTC’s presentation of colors, followed by a performance of the National Anthem by student Melissa Graham. Representatives from the college administration and student body will address the audience, and there will be a brief history of the garden. A ceremonial tree-watering will conclude the program. Light refreshments will follow. A special array of military, U.S. and state flags — courtesy of The Flag Man of Oceanside — will adorn the stage area.
“There is no greater sacrifice than giving your life to defend your country, and this is the least we could do to honor their service,” said Ralph Pickering, MiraCosta College’s district grounds supervisor who played a key role in preparing the site near the Administration Building.
The Veterans Memorial Garden is beside the campus flagpole and MiraCosta College’s Vietnam War Memorial. It includes five black granite benches, each inscribed with the emblem and name of each branch of the military; an Araucaria heterophylla, commonly known as a Norfolk Island pine planted Oct. 10; 28 Cupressus sempervirens, known as Italian cypress trees that were planted on Oct. 10 and Oct. 11; and groundcover with red, white and blue foliage surrounding the base of the Arucaria.
This fall, Papaver rhoeas seeds, or Flander’s Field poppies, will be sown throughout the trees’ basins and will bloom next spring. The Norfolk Island pine, when seen together with the flagpole and adjacent Blayney Tower (an earlier memorial to honor the fallen World War II veteran, Robert Monroe Blayney), create three spires that together represent the military’s theme of duty, honor and valor. The Italian cypress, spaced four feet from each other and growing ramrod straight, symbolizes service members standing at attention. The planting of the Flanders Field poppies is in honor and remembrance of veterans and those who have lost their lives during war.
MiraCosta College’s Associated Students paid for most of the memorial benches, which were the brainchild of former Associated Students President Adam Frye. Frye’s five years of active duty in the Marine Corps included two tours of Iraq. One of Frye’s duties was securing approval from each branch of the military to use their emblems that were placed on the granite benches.
For Frye, the Veterans Memorial Garden is personal. “I lost some friends in Iraq, so for me, it’s important that they get this kind of recognition.”
MiraCosta College has an extensive veterans’ support program, and roughly one of every 10 MiraCosta College students are either in the military or are family members of active duty personnel. The number of military veterans enrolled at the Oceanside-based college district, meanwhile, has grown by 93 percent in the past five years.