Cowpens Sailors Pay Homage at Manila American Cemetery

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Story Number: NNS140328-05Release Date: 3/28/2014 11:32:00 AM

From USS Cowpens Public Affairs

MANILA, Republic of Philippines (NNS) -- 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 headstones 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 led 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. The Philippine national anthem was played followed by the United States national anthem, and the ceremony concluded with a 21-gun salute. Following the ceremony, the crew of Cowpens walked amongst the names of 36,286 veterans who 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 Master Chief Fire Controlman 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."

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.

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