Councilman Proposes Tyrone Woods Memorial Wall

Published May 26, 2013 by Imperial Beach Patch.

Monday plaques will be installed at Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial for Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, two former Navy SEALS who died defending American lives in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 12, 2012.

In the past months plaques were also installed at the State Department in Washington for Doherty and Woods and Rep. Duncan Hunter proposed the two receive Congressional Gold Medals, the highest honor Congress can award a civilian.

The City of Imperial Beach, where Woods lived, has not officially recognized his death through proclamation or any other means. A memorial wall proposed by Councilman Brian Bilbray would be a way to remember Woods, who lived in IB, and others who died serving their country.

The wall could be built in Veterans Park and named the Tyrone Woods Memorial Wall, he said.

“I’m kind of ashamed that we don’t have something for service members in Imperial Beach,” he said.

At this time the memorial wall is just an idea. There is no proposed site or design concepts but Bilbray plans to discuss a memorial wall at a City Council meeting in the coming weeks, he said.

Before then he said he wants to approach the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and other members of the community to gain support.

Bilbray said he started thinking about a memorial after Woods’ death. A park bench or tree for Woods didn’t seem like enough, he said, and after a few months and talks with some local residents he arrived at the idea of a wall.

Bilbray envisions the wall being paid for entirely by donations or private funders.

“It would probably have to be a donations sort of thing to get this started,” Bilbray said.

Families of service members can then buy plaques for the wall. The memorial should be built in a way that it can be easily expanded and off to the side so it doesn’t hamper the experience of visitors to the city’s largest park.

Other City Councilmembers and members of the community also support the idea of a memorial wall.

Marina Vista Park was dedicated to all veterans and renamed Veterans Park in May 1995. Memorial Day ceremonies have been held the park for decades, said Fleet Reserve Association Branch 289 President Paul Hanson.

One of the only standing memorials to veterans in Imperial Beach is an eagle statue
with feathers made of dog tags which was donated to FRA Branch 289 in 2010 by artist Cathy Ann Janes.

Now a living memorial dubbed Operation Dog Tag, for $10 family members can add their loved one to the memorial. A portion of proceeds benefit the Wounded Warrior Foundation and Freedom House.

Though the FRA already has a way to remember veterans, Hanson said he supports the idea of a memorial wall and thinks the idea could be popular.

“I think that’s a great idea and I don’t think there would be any negativity from the [FRA] branch wanting to do that either,” he said. “The [American] Legion, the VFW, I think everybody would be in on that or for it.”

Mayor Pro Tempore and Councilwoman Lorie Bragg said she is often approached around Memorial Day by the families of service members who have passed away who are looking for ways to remember their loved ones. She said she supports the idea of a memorial wall especially since her father died fighting in the Korean War.

“This is a tremendous military town, predominately Navy, but several branches from other parts of the military are here too,” she said. “I think it’s a wonderful idea, but then you have to think about what the location will be, how’s it going to be funded, that sort of thing.”

The U.S. military has a history in Imperial Beach that dates back further than the City of Imperial Beach. The U.S. Army operated in Imperial Beach in the 1800s on land now used by the Navy.

When Naval Outlying Landing Field Imperial Beach was known as Ream Field it was named after Army Maj. William Roy Ream, the first flight surgeon killed in an aircraft accident.

The city has not issued a proclamation in Woods’ honor, Bragg said, because proclamations are issued upon request and no request has been made.

U-­T San Diego named Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods 2012 Persons of the Year.

IB Patch readers voted to name Woods 2012 Person of the Year, and some suggested Imperial Beach rename a street in his honor.

Bragg and other City Councilmembers said they have not been contacted by any individual or organization about a memorial for Woods or to rename a street. Renaming a street after any particular person for any reason would present another set of challenges, she said.

“When you embark on something like that then what’s your benchmark criteria? Cause then someone else says ‘Well I had a loved one pass away in the service,'” she said. “And I’m certainly not trying to diminish any of it. We have widows in town who lost loved ones in Pearl Harbor. Then they’re going to say ‘Gosh. Why wasn’t something done for my husband?'”

No city streets are named after a particular individual, said Public Safety Department director Hank Levien.

Only two streets names have been changed since the city was founded in 1956. While Brian Bilray was mayor from 1978 to 1985 Imperial Beach changed Coronado Avenue to Imperial Beach Boulevard and First Street to Seacoast Drive.

Hanson suggested a requirement like the need to receive certain medals or commendations in order for the city to consider naming a street after a veteran.

Without some sort of benchmark, he said, “every street in IB could be named something else” in memory of military heroes.

Political fallout after the terrorist attack in Benghazi last fall doesn’t change what Tyrone Woods did to save American lives, said Councilman Bobby Patton.

“That whole thing is still unraveling and I think any way it unravels he’s still a hero and that’s the fact,” he said.

“I think one way or another Mr. Woods needs to be remembered,” Patton said. “And we have Veterans Park right there, that whole area. I’m definitely for something for him but I just want to make sure other folks are remembered as well.”

It’s not unusual for veteran service organizations to have standing memorials but sometimes are only visible to members and their families who can access their facilities, Patton said.

“Veterans Park: It has the right name, doesn’t it?” he said.

Mayor Jim Janney will present a wreath as part of Memorial Day ceremonies at Veterans Park Monday. He said he does not support the idea of renaming a street or a memorial for an individual.

“I think we’re very limited in allowing memorials at all,” Janney said. “So what would happen if we did something for Ty? Then someone else would show up.”

Freda Adams compiled the city’s first history and played a role in Imperial Beach becoming an incorporated city. She passed away in April and may have been a good candidate for some kind of recognition but there is no memorial or plaque for her, he said.

One option is to purchase and dedicate a bench in Veterans Park, he said.

The city currently has few memorials on public land:

  • a plaque in Triangle Park to Angie Pallotto, an active member of the city’s civic community
  • a bench dedicated to Councilman Fred McLean at the Skate Park after his sudden death in 2010

Notable moments in Imperial Beach history were carved into the path that winds through Veterans Park in April 2012.

Comments are closed.