Golden Gate National Cemetery occupies 161 acres of rolling hillside in San Bruno. This morning the fog was thick and wet and initially obscured the most distant rows of white marble gravestones that fan out in every direction, over 115,000 graves in all. Hundreds of Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, veterans and civic organization volunteers gathered at the cemetery with the goal of decorating each grave with a flag to honor and remember the veterans buried there.
The event began with the raising of the flag, "The Star-Spangled Banner", and the bugle call of "Taps". Congresswoman Jackie Speier addressed the crowd, reminding us that each grave upon which we would place a flag was that of a hero who had served our country. A couple whose son had served and died in Afghanistan in 2006 thanked everyone for being there as well. I am sure every parent present was as moved as I was that a family who had lost their son could be thanking us with such grace and sincerity, when it was we who owed them so much.
The scoutmaster serving as master of ceremonies, who first attended the event in 1956 as a Cub Scout, instructed us on the specifics of flag planting and we all dispersed to our assigned areas. Over the next hour and a half, the cemetery was transformed to a vast sea of flags flapping in the breeze, each flag a vibrant reminder that our veterans are gone, but their sacrifices are not forgotten.