Tomorrow's Navy Leaders Honor Yesterday's Heroes: Reminders of Service to Country Fill Academy's Grounds

By Edsall, Margaret Horton | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 11, 1999 | Go to article overview

Tomorrow's Navy Leaders Honor Yesterday's Heroes: Reminders of Service to Country Fill Academy's Grounds


Edsall, Margaret Horton, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


ANNAPOLIS - As dawn's early light casts its golden glow upon the mist rising above the Severn River, another day begins here at the U.S. Naval Academy. The Marines arrive from the Naval Station barracks for "Call to the Colors," the daily ritual of hoisting the Stars and Stripes over this place called the Yard. The bugle sounds, traffic halts and for a brief moment life focuses on the mast before the Administration Building, the prelude to a normal day's events at the USNA.

But it is Veterans Day, the day when America pays tribute to the military men and women who served in its wars. The holiday was first known as Armistice Day, a date set aside by the United States, Great Britain and France to mark the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the precise moment when the guns fell silent on the Western front and ended what was then known as the Great War.

After World War II, recognition was expanded to include the veterans and the dead of that war. In 1954, after the Korean War, the observance was officially changed to honor all veterans of the U.S. armed services.

While it might be imagined this holiday would be a time for exceptional activities at the Naval Academy, the fact is that beyond floral tributes placed in appropriate places, little will happen today that is out of the ordinary. After all, this is where veterans of the Navy and Marine Corps are honored every day of the year.

Confirmation of this daily observance lies just inside the academy's gates. At each turn throughout this 302-acre National Historic Landmark are expressions of honor paid to those who put their lives in danger or gave their lives for their country.

"We in America do not build monuments to war. We do not build monuments to conquest," Franklin Delano Roosevelt said. "We build monuments to commemorate the spirit of sacrifice in war - reminders of our desire for peace."

* * *

The Navy's and Marine Corps' desire for peace echoes in the academy's monuments, plaques, mementos and artifacts. At the sea wall, the Triton Light stands for the safe return of those who go down to the sea in ships, while the foremast from the USS Maine - recovered from Havana harbor after the ship's sinking and loss of 260 crew members in 1898 - is raised in memory of its heroes.

The belief that courage runs deep can be found nearby at the Submarine Monument, presented by submariners of World War II in memory of officers and crew who are still on patrol. The Freedom Tree on Soley Walk is inscribed "With the vision of universal freedom for all mankind and dedicated to U.S. Naval Academy POW/MIAs and all other prisoners of war and missing in action."

And at the intersection of Stribling and Chapel walks is the Mexican War Monument, erected by midshipmen in memory of those killed during the 1847 naval operations staged to seize control of the key seaport at Vera Cruz, Mexico.

Nearby is the Herndon Monument, a 21-foot granite obelisk on Chapel Walk named for Cmdr. William L. Herndon, a naval officer who explored the Amazon River for the United States in 1854 and died in 1857 aboard the mail steamer Central America. Once a year, just before graduation, the 1,000 freshmen in the plebe class try to climb to the top of the obelisk, which sophomores have smeared with 200 pounds of lard.

The white figurehead and four carronades - short, lightweight cannons used for firing at close range - accent the base of Stribling Walk. They commemorate their capture from the British ship HMS Macedonian by Capt. Stephen Decatur while he commanded the frigate United States during the War of 1812.

The Tripoli Monument is considered one of the oldest public monuments in the country. Positioned between Preble and Leahy halls, it honors six naval officers who died during the Barbary Wars in 1804. It was sculpted in Italy, then brought to the United States aboard the frigate Constitution in 1808 and erected in the Washington Navy Yard. …

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