By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jimmie Crockett, Naval Public Affairs Support Element West, San Diego
MIRAMAR, Calif. (NNS) -- Several hundred San Diego-area veterans, service members, and members of the public and media attended the fourth annual Veterans Memorial Service at Miramar National Cemetery on Sunday, May 24.
The ceremony began with an invocation and prayer from Capt. Henry E. Thomas of the California Air National Guard.
Joel Sollender of Poway, Calif., a former prisoner of war, then spoke about his experiences during World War II. Then Pvt. Sollender, not yet 20 years old, was sent to France in October 1944 were he was assigned as first scout to second platoon, 346th Infantry Regiment, 87th "Golden Acorn" Infantry Division, part of General George S. Patton's Third Army.
During the Lorraine Campaign, the Third Army faced heavy casualties. On December 11, 1944, Pvt. Sollender was captured by a German tank crew and imprisoned.
Liberated by Russian forces, he was nonetheless held hostage until he escaped and walked 30 miles to American lines. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his actions.
"You do not know what freedom is, until you lose it," he said.
Capt. Laura M. Scotty, assistant chief of staff for the Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command, was the keynote speaker at Sunday's ceremony.
"I was both humbled and sobered by my surroundings," said Capt. Scotty. "Since Miramar National Cemetery opened in 2010, more than 6000 have been buried here."
One of the first four veterans laid to rest in the cemetery was a woman, Lt. Cmdr. Mary Jane Crother, she said.
Capt. Scotty addressed the growing role and responsibilities of women in the armed forces. While calling on her audience to remember all who have died in service to their country, she also specifically honored the sacrifices of women.
"We remember, we pay tribute to, and we thank those men and women that have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy today and every day."
The service concluded with a closing prayer from Capt. Thomas.