Riverside National Cemetery
Located in Riverside, California the Riverside National Cemetery is 921 acres in size. The National Cemetery Admission manages it, which is the third-largest cemetery that they oversee, and it is dedicated towards U.S. military personnel. According to the number of interments, Riverside National Cemetery has been the most active since 2000, compared to all others in the system.
During 1976, the March Air Force Base transferred 740 acres, resulting in the establishment of the Riverside National Cemetery. This land was known as Camp Haan during WWII. The land was chosen with the concept of offering Southern California veterans and families a full burial option by President Ford’s Commission of National Cemeteries. In 2003, the United States Air Force transferred another 181 acres.
The cemetery was open for burials on November 11th, 1978 (Veterans Day), where speakers included 15 Medal of Honor recipients, and Joe Foss (Greatest fighter ace of the Marine Corps). The first burial in Riverside National Cemetery was Army Staff Sgt. Ysmael Villegas, a Medal of Honor recipient for bravery at Villa Verde Trial (Luzon, Philippines), where it cost him his life on March 20, 1945. Originally, he was laid to rest in Olivewood Cemetery (Riverside, CA). Before Riverside National Cemetery was opened, Villegas family was asked by the Veterans Administration if they could honor him with a re-burial after opening.
The landscape features a centralized boulevard that has memorial lakes, circles, a memorial amphitheater, and indigenous-styled committal shelter. Provided military funeral honors include all service branches, conducted by military honor guards from the California National Guard and volunteer teams named Memorial Honor Detail at the family’s request.
There are various memorials and monuments, including the Medal of Honor Memorial which is one of four recognized sites within the United States by United States Congress as being a ‘National Medal of Honor Memorial Site’. This memorial features walls with names of all recipients of medals, and can found on the third circle in the cemetery. On November 5th, 1999 a ceremony was dedicated to the memorial, with 85 Medal of Honor recipients attending.
The Veterans Memorial is a statue is a commemoration for veterans, comrades, emotional and personal sacrifices, and acknowledgement for Americans that lost friends and family during service. The statue has a 12ft pedestal, with the body of a soldier which is covered partially, wearing a poncho to hide his face. This memorial statue was donated May 28th, 2000 by Thomas F. and Judy Kane.
On September 16th, 2005 Riverside National Cemetery received the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Memorial by the United States Congress. This statue is made of bronze, and features a sculpted American serviceman bound on his knees by captors. To represent imprisonment the statue is surrounded by black marble pillars. The statue was sculpted by Lewis Lee Millett, Jr. a Vietnam veteran.