Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial expands to make room to honor more veterans

Memorial began in 2000

SAN DIEGO - A ceremony was held at Mt. Soledad Wednesday morning to expand the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, which began in 2000.

The memorial became so popular among military veterans' families the walls ran out of room after being filled up with plaques honoring 3,000 veterans.

Now, the nonprofit Mt. Soledad Memorial Association has added five new walls to make room for 2,400 new plaques.

Marine Sgt. Maj. Jean Neil dedicated his life to his country, and he was on the first of two new plaques unveiled in front of a crowd of about 50 on Wednesday.

While he is no longer around to receive the honors, his son, retired Marine Brig. Gen. Michael Neil, was brimming with pride.

"My dad was a leader among men," Neil said. "I know he's looking down and he's proud," he added. "[I] choke up a little bit, but I'm proud ... Today is about him, not about me."

Neil also received a plaque that went up next to his father's.

Marine Lance Cpl. Tony Davis was at the ceremony as part of the color guard. At just 22 years old, Davis has already deployed twice. With just four years under his belt, he seemed humbled to help honor those who served decades before him like the Neils.

"Any man that has the patience and strength to do 20 and retire is damn tough," Davis said.  

"[They're] brothers," Davis added. "That's really the heart of why we do any of the stuff -- for each other."

The plaques honor veterans of all branches and not just in death. The nonprofit said it is the only U.S. memorial recognizing those alive to receive the honors they've earned from the Revolutionary War to current conflicts.

"When I came back from Vietnam, we were not recognized as any type of war hero," Neil said. "We were spit upon. Today, the world's changed and that's the way it should be. We have the finest warriors in the world today and they ought to be honored as such."

For more information on the memorial, click here.

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