Friday, July 14, 2017
Whitney Joyner & Kevin Wagner
The day began with our arrival at the Presidio, located on the northwest corner of the San Francisco Peninsula. The Presidio has a rich history spanning back to the time of the native Ohlone people. The Spanish arrived in 1776 to establish the northernmost outpost of their empire in western North America. The U.S. Army took control in 1846 and over the next 148 years transformed the Presidio grounds from mostly dunes and scrub to a verdant, preeminent military post on the west coast. The first known burial at this location occurred in 1854. After a petition by Lieutenant Colonel George P. Andrews to Congress, the San Francisco National Cemetery was created as the first national cemetery on the west coast in 1884.
Here we entered the cemetery from the upper-most portion, greeted by stone walls on opposite sides of the walkway covered with the famous poem by Archibald MacLeish, “The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak.” We made our way down the sloping hillside, noticing row upon row of fallen heroes going back as far as the Civil War. Almost at the bottom, we paid tribute to Lieutenant Colonel Charles Leinbach who served our nation during World Wars I and II. After surviving three years as a prisoner of war and one hell ship, his life came to a close on a second hell ship. Both his wife and daughter are laid to rest with him, reuniting the family. Further down was the grave of Clayton Lloyd Landon, a young submariner who lost his life in the Pacific Ocean aboard the USS Tullibee. Both of these men know command a peaceful view of the Golden Gate Bridge as their final resting place.
We followed our trip to the San Francisco National Cemetery with a visit to the West Coast Memorial to honor U.S. Navy Quartermaster Second Class Edgar Blannam Atkinson. Atkinson is one of the 413 soldiers, sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and airmen memorialized at the West Coast Memorial, erected in memory of those who met their deaths in the American coastal waters of the Pacific during World War II and whose remains were never recovered or identified.
As we approached the memorial, the fog rolled in over the Pacific, covering a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Atkinson served aboard the USS Cummings before falling overboard in a high sea on January 27, 1942. As we stood before the memorial, we could not help but think of Atkinson’s sisters and how we wished they could see the setting there. While we were only there a short time, it was a truly meaningful experience to honor and remember Edgar’s life, service, and ultimate sacrifice.