MANILA, Republic of Philippines – Crew members of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) visited the Manila American Cemetery in Manila, March 10, during a port visit.
The site is nestled in the heart of a bustling city with lush green grounds standing out from the steel and concrete that surround it. The 152 acre cemetery serves as a humbling reminder of our fallen heroes, containing 17, 202 headstones from World War II and the largest number in one cemetery from the war. The head stones lay in a series of concentric circles, all revolving around a central plaza area which contains a small chapel and a memorial for those who are still missing in action.
It was at this central plaza where Cowpens Sailors were greeted and lead through a small ceremony honoring those who had gone before us. The crew fell into ranks and looked on as Capt. Gregory Gombert, Cowpens’ commanding officer, presented a wreath to the fallen and missing in action, taking a moment of silence before saluting and returning to ranks. The crew then waited on bated breath, as the Philippine National Anthem was played followed by the United States National Anthem, and concluded with a 21 gun salute. Following the ceremony, the crew of Cowpens walked amongst the names of 36, 286 veterans that were engraved on marble walls in the central plaza, a reminder of those who never returned home from the war.
"It was sobering and mind boggling to suddenly realize the enormous loss of life during the years from 1941-1945 in South East Asia,” said Fire Controlman Master Chief Michael Rzeczycki of Cowpens. “The brave sacrifice made by over 36,000 Filipino and American brothers-in-arms touched my heart and made me appreciate this great memorial. Thank you!"
The Manila American Cemetery was a quiet reprieve, surrounded by the towering buildings and city buzz, a beautiful memorial offering solitude for both those who visit and those who will eternally rest there. It was a reminder of those who scarified all in service to their country. The Manila American Cemetery is a treasure of the city, one which beckons a visit from all service members who travel to Manila.