Veterans Memorial Garden

When you first arrive at the Veterans Memorial Garden on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, you are greeted by the Staff Sergeant Reckless monument. The life-like statue was unveiled on October 26, 2016 in honor of the Korean War pack horse whose numerous awards include two purple hearts, a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.

The hilltop garden sits next to the Pacific Views Event Center and overlooks the ocean, serving as a quiet place for reflection. The majority of the trail is paved cement, with a small portion being a traditional dirt path. A pedestrian bridge connects the Naval Hospital to the garden, allowing for easy access for patients and visitors. The Veterans Memorial Garden was dedicated in 2003 to pay tribute to not only veterans, but also to the active-duty service members of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Just before you enter through the archway, be sure to look for the memorial stones recognizing the Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action. As you walk along the designated trail you will notice additional military memorials located along the pathway honoring the 5th Marine Division, the 4th Marine Division, and the 1st Marine Division. Additionally, there is a Dawgs of War monument recognizing the United States military working dog handlers of all generations and their K9 companions.

Once you have circled back to the trail head, take a quick walk over to the memorial for the Chosin Few. The engraved black granite slab honors the veterans of the Korean War and those who fought in the Chosin Reservoir Battle. It is adjacent to the Pacific Views Event Center and includes a famous quote from the 1st Marine Division commander in Korea, Maj. Gen. Oliver Smith, “Retreat, hell! We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction.”

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The Veterans Memorial Garden landscape is made up of all-native Californian plants that are drought resistant; including palms, sycamores and pines. Planting and maintenance for the garden is kept up by the Camp Pendleton’s Marines, Sailors, and civilian volunteers. But is it the Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores Docent Organization that supports the Camp Pendleton History and Museums Department and organizes the Veterans Memorial Garden.

San Diego County has a rich military history providing visitors and locals the unique opportunity to visit numerous museums, memorials, and more. In addition to this unique Veterans Memorial Garden on Camp Pendleton, other popular military- inspired locations include Cabrillo National MonumentUSS Midway MuseumSan Diego Air & Space Museum, and the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center. Locally, the Veterans Association of North County (VANC) is a one-stop resource for active military and veterans. While you’re out and visiting these locations, make sure you keep an eye out for veterans and thank them for their selfless service to this country.

Please note that as of February 2016 USMC Base Camp Pendleton has changed its visitor policy. Click for more information regarding Camp Pendleton’s Base Access Procedures.

Published: November 8, 2017

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