Pacific Beach military veteran leader reflects on Memorial Day

Mike Hill, commander of VFW Post 5985 and American Legion Post 552, both located at 853 Turquoise St. in Pacific Beach.
(B.J. Coleman)

Mike Hill is uniquely positioned to offer reflections about Memorial Day in Pacific Beach.

Hill currently serves as Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5985 on Turquoise Street, as well as serving concurrently as commander of the co-located American Legion Post 552.

“Like a lot of guys, we knew we were going to serve at the risk of our lives,” the Army veteran said. “I’m lucky, and the only way I know to honor what they were doing, keeping the country safe, is to make sure their sacrifice was not in vain.”

Veterans Day annually recognizes all veterans and active duty military servicemembers. But Memorial Day is carved out for special recognition to honor those serving in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice of laying down their lives to protect their fellow citizens.

VFW Post 5985 will be hosting a Memorial Day fundraising barbecue on Monday, May 30, from noon to 4 p.m. The barbecue is sponsored by in-house organizations Sons of The American Legion and The American Legion Auxiliary. Each $8 plate includes choice of hamburger or hot dog, a side and a dessert.

Indoor and outdoor seating will be offered, and meals can be ordered to go. The on-site canteen will have affordable libations to accompany meals. Opportunity drawings and a 50/50 raffle will assist fundraising efforts. Proceeds will support the auxiliary’s 2022 holiday party for local active-duty enlisted military families, the first since 2019.

Additionally, the Memorial Day barbecue is scheduled to accommodate attendance at the Mount Soledad Memorial Day observance ceremony, set for 11 a.m. until noon. This year’s ceremony will honor Maj. Megan McClung, the first female Marine officer killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. She is also the first female graduate of the United States Naval Academy to be killed in action since the school’s founding in 1845.

Keynote speaker will be retired Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland. The Mount Soledad Memorial ceremony will be open for in-person attendance as well as being streamed online.

Mike Hill
(B.J. Coleman)

“What’s added to my perspective is the last six months of history,” Hill said. “The local military in Afghanistan were willing to surrender to the Taliban almost immediately. The Ukrainians in combat defense now, though, that’s what soldiers are about.”

Hill said not all people are suited to military service.

“My college roommate was not wired to kill,” Hill said.

After completing his military service, Hill worked in Silicon Valley as an account manager for HP.

He has been a member of VFW Post 5985 for nearly six years after visiting nearby veterans posts.

“This PB post just felt good,” Hill said, of his decision to opt for veteran membership in the PB post.

“I know why I served, to protect this place for them, because we still have a wonderful society,” Hill said. “We’re still fighting for that, and we need to honor those who died in military service, so that they did not die in vain.”

Indeed, Hill described plans to further improve the veterans post with ongoing renovations and outreach to other community event planners to consider renting the hall. Other service efforts include sponsoring high school junior boys for Boys State, a participatory civics exercise over one week in standing up a civil government, and seeking a Boy Scouts troop to sponsor.

During Hill’s interview, a military veteran who recently arrived from El Paso, Texas, thanked Hill for allowing him to sleep in his car in the post parking lot the night before. (The veteran had traveled from El Paso to respond to a family emergency.)

“My give-back now is my post service,” Hill said. He expressed satisfaction in his Turquoise veterans post hosting six nonprofits for volunteer work.

The post at 853 Turquoise St. in Pacific Beach is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, beginning at 2 p.m., and Sundays from noon. In-house dinners are available on Tuesdays and Fridays. For more information about post events call 858-488-3631.