Naval Medical Center San Diego Celebrates its 100th Birthday

Story Number: NNS170519-29Release Date: 5/19/2017 9:32:00 PM
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By Mike Alvarez

NAVAL MEDICAL CENTER SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Hundreds from throughout the San Diego community assembled here today in celebration of Naval Medical Center San Diego's (NMCSD) 100th birthday.

After an invocation offered by Cmdr. Barry A. Metzger, chaplain for NMCSD, Capt. Joel A. Roos, Commanding Officer, NMCSD, presided over the ceremony honoring the hospital's century-long legacy, which began May 20, 1917, when the U.S. Navy established its first permanent medical facility in San Diego at Balboa Park.

Sailors clad in dress white uniforms were visible throughout the midday ceremony, which took place under a clear blue sky accompanied by music, compliments of Navy Band Southwest.

"I am truly humbled and proud to lead you today as we celebrate this truly remarkable event," said Roos, addressing an audience drawn from various sectors of San Diego's society with current and past ties to the hospital. City council staff, congressional staff, and retired naval officers who previously commanded the hospital, along with current hospital staff and families, were among an audience of about 300 seated in white chairs under a large white canopy facing a stage trimmed with star-laden red, white and blue bunting.

In July 1919, congress authorized the Navy to accept a tract of land on Inspiration Point in Balboa Park where a new hospital was built Aug. 22, 1922. The hospital, affectionately known as the "Pink Palace" for its pink hue, stands today as home to the San Diego County Parks and Recreation Department.

Guest speaker, Rear Adm. Paul D. Pearigen, Commander, Navy Medicine West and chief of the Navy Medical Corps, highlighted NMCSD's current achievements and provided an optimistic outlook on Balboa's future. "Thank you for the role you have played, currently play, and will play," said Pearigen. "Navy Medicine in Balboa Park has been steadfast and dedicated toward innovation and excellence." Pearigen served as NMCSD's Deputy Commander from March 23, 2007 to June 30, 2009.

Historical guest speaker, retired Vice Adm. Harold M. Koenig, opened his remarks with a quote from ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius. "If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed. If in terms of ten years, plant trees. If in terms of a hundred years, teach people. A hundred years ago Cmdr. Farenholt, C.O. (commanding officer), probably didn't think in terms of a hundred years. Since that interval, there have been a lot of seeds planted here and a lot of trees have grown. I have been a seed, I have been a tree, and I think I have planted plenty of both," he said.

Koenig commanded Naval Hospital San Diego from July 1985 to June 1987, and served as the Navy Surgeon General and chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, from June 1995 to June 1998. Koenig captivated the audience as he provided an overview of NMCSD's history, which included compelling personal accounts of the people, both patients and staff, he connected with during his time with the hospital. From prisoners of war returning from Vietnam to the children he cared for as a pediatrician.

"Many have been taught at this facility and have in turn taught others. Teaching is an integral part of this institution," said Koenig. "I think Confucius would be proud."

Following Koenig's remarks, a congressional staff delegation presented a joint proclamation for NMCSD's centennial on behalf of the offices of U.S. Rep. Scott Peters, U.S. Rep. Juan C. Vargas and U.S. Rep. Susan Davis. NMCSD has a history of support from local and federal officials.

The late U.S. Rep. Robert (Bob) Wilson represented several California districts throughout his 28-year career, and was crucial in leading negotiations with local and federal officials which paved the way for construction of today's state-of-the-art facility. On Jan. 23, 1988, the facility was dedicated. On May 8, 2008, NMCSD was renamed Bob Wilson Naval Hospital in gratitude for the congressman's unswerving support to Navy Medicine.

"Be it resolved by Congresswoman Susan Davis, Juan Vargas, and Scott Peters, that on this day, May 19, 2017, Naval Medical Center San Diego is to be commended for its one hundred years of service and care," said Capt. Cynthia A. Kuehner, Master of Ceremonies for the event and Executive Officer, NMCSD, as she read the proclamation's final sentence.

As the ceremony neared its conclusion NMCSD's Chief Petty Officer's mess dedicated a 5,000-pound gold anchor, recently placed near NMCSD's flagpole to commemorate the day. "On behalf of the Chief Petty Officer's mess, we bestow this admiralty anchor to Naval Medical Center San Diego marking the one hundredth year anniversary," said Command Master Chief Kelly A. McNulty, NMCSD's top enlisted Sailor. "May rich traditions, heritage and Navy core values continue to lead the way for the next one hundred years through readiness, health and partnerships." The anchor was painted gold to symbolize NMCSD's status as a "Gold Anchor Award" recipient for retention excellence.

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