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By Keaton Larson
Rotary Club of San Juan Capistrano members John Taylor and other fellow Rotarian Steve Rose received an award of appreciation from the 11th Marines Ceremonial Garden Executive Board for the club’s support of the 11th Marines Ceremonial Garden project.
The award was presented at the Rotary Scout Hut by Chief Warrant Officer 5, President of the 11th Marines Ceremonial Garden Committee and retired Marine David Thomas. Thomas highlighted the steadfast leadership, hard work and generosity of the Rotary Club for its service to this project.
John Taylor—then-president of the Rotary Club of San Juan Capistrano and also a current member of the City Council—and other Rotarians, including Yvonne Murai and Steve Rose, began the process of building the ceremonial gardens in 2016. Retired Marine Corps Colonel Mike Frazier and Colonel Chris Tavuchis—who was the commanding officer of the 11th Marines at the time and is also retired—were key in this project.
While several other regiments had ceremonial or memorial gardens at Camp Pendleton, the 11th Marine Regiment was previously without one, and they wanted to change that. The Ceremonial Garden is located at Camp Las Pulgas aboard Camp Pendleton. The garden is “a quiet venue for veterans, families, and friends to gather and remember their Marines and Sailors, especially those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in past combat,” a description on the Ceremonial Garden’s website said.
Murai, also a member of the 11th Marines family support group, pushed for the project. With the help of Rose, a landscape architect, they came up with a design for the garden.
The funding to build the proposed garden was largely raised through small, private donations and an annual golf tournament held at the Marine Memorial Golf Course at Camp Pendleton, Taylor said.
Once the project was approved by the Secretary of the Navy, Taylor—who was serving as the general contractor for the project—and a number of Marines stationed at the base tackled the hard work of building the garden, part of which included help with the trenching and grating to pour concrete.
“I had these guys show up from the engineering division of the Marine Corps,” Taylor said.
Some Marines reportedly were trained on how to operate the equipment necessary for construction. When Marines had spare time, some would come over and help, Taylor said.
Ultimately, the project was completed in 2020 after about six years of planning and construction with the help of Rotarians, retired and active-duty Marines.
The 11th Marine Regiment, also known as“The Cannon Cockers,” is the artillery regiment of the 1st Marine Division. The regiment has served the nation for nearly 100 years and has participated in conflicts including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Operations Desert Storm, Restore Hope, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and others.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated from a previous version due to incorrect details.