Skip to Content
background pattern

Presidio Hosts 144th Memorial Day Ceremony

Event is at San Francisco National Cemetery.


Presidio of San Francisco (May 24, 2012) — The 144th San Francisco Memorial Day Ceremony will take place at the San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio on Monday, May 28. Drawing more than 2,500 people, the Presidio ceremony is one of the largest Memorial Day events in the nation. This year marks the 70th anniversary of America’s first full year in World War II, and the end of the Iraq War.

This year’s ceremony includes a special dedication to honor the life of Renie Champagne. In San Francisco, Renie may have been best known as the leader of thePresidio’s Memorial Day ceremony for the past four decades.  He served in the U.S. Navy on theBattleship USS Mississippi, was a Purple Heart recipient, and a member of America’s “greatest generation.” Renie passed away last year during the Memorial Day weekend.

“Renie Champagne was a shining example of America’s greatest generation. He dedicated his life to serving his country and his fellow veterans. He was a true hero to me,” says Wallace Levin, a veteran of the Korean War and current coordinator of the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Presidio. “Today, the brave men and women who’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan have become the new greatest generation, and I am proud to be part of honoring them all on this Memorial Day.”

Events begin at 10:30 am with the 191st Army Band leading a parade of veterans, distinguished guests and historic vehicles from the Presidio’s Main Post Parade Ground (Montgomery St. and Sheridan Ave.) to the National Cemetery at 1 Lincoln Boulevard. The formal ceremony begins in the Cemetery at 11:00 am and will feature a 4-gun salute and a special tribute to the veterans of World War II and of the Iraq War, including a wreath laying ceremony at the Cenotaph by veterans of both conflicts.

The program will include the songs from the Cable Car Chorus, Howitzer cannon salutes, and a flyover by the U.S. Coast Guard. The featured speakers will be Edwin Lee, Mayor of San Francisco, Captain Cyndi Stowe, Commander Coast Guard Section San Francisco, and Brigadier General Mike Wehr, Commander, Army Corps of Engineers, South Pacific Division.

The United States entered World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. This marked the beginning of a period of great activity in the Presidio of San Francisco. Fort Winfield Scott sprang to life as the headquarters for the defense of Pacific harbors and the Presidio became the headquarters of the Western Defense Command responsible for retaking Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians from the Japanese. In the fall of 1941, the Presidio became the initial home for a military intelligence Japanese language school. While the threat of invasion faded after the naval Battle of Midway in 1942, the Presidio’s several headquarters continued the prosecution of the war effort until peace came in 1945.

As in previous military conflicts, the Presidio provided support for departing and returning troops. The Letterman Army Hospital was a major center for casualties. More than 3,100 veterans of World War II are buried in the National Cemetery. Their headstones are quiet reminders of the sacrifice and lasting contributions made by American soldiers to their country.

“The Memorial Day Ceremony is so important to the Presidio and its history of military service,” said Craig Middleton, Presidio Trust Executive Director. “We are honored to host and support this annual event.”

The National Cemetery in the Presidio is a designated National Historic Landmark, dating back to the 1846 war with Mexico. More than 35,000 veterans and their dependents are buried there. It has long been a tradition for the Boy Scouts to decorate each grave in the cemetery with an American flag on Memorial Day.

Following the program, the National Park Service will offer half-hour tours of the National Cemetery, and the Interfaith Center at the Presidio will hold a brief service and offer light refreshments at the historic chapel from 12:30-1:15 pm. Community organizations will be on site with information on how to support veterans throughout the year.

Parking Notice:
Parking at the Main Post is free on holidays, and a free Memorial Day shuttle will provide service between the Main Post and the National Cemetery beginning at 9:30 am and running through 2:00 pm.

For more information about the Presidio’s Memorial Day Events, call 415-561-5418.

The Presidio Trust was established by the United States Congress in 1996 to administer the Presidio of San Francisco, an urban national park site located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Presidio is one of the largest and most ambitious historic preservation projects underway in the United States. The Presidio’s historic buildings represent the nation’s most comprehensive collection of military architecture, dating from the Civil War through the Cold War, including homes and barracks that reflect how the military social hierarchy and domestic life evolved in the Presidio. Since 1994, approximately 75 percent of the park’s historic structures have been rehabilitated for new uses. The park comprises nearly 6 million square feet of buildings, including 469 historic structures that contribute to the Presidio’s status as a National Historic Landmark District.

Contact Us

Presidio Trust Media Relations

Lisa Petrie

(415) 264-7787