Memorial Day 2023

Like many Arizonans, I spent a few of the last days of spring last week in Southern California. As it happens, some of those days were spent in Oceanside, just south of USMC Base Camp Pendleton.

Our lodging was adjacent to an old city cemetery, placarded as the “I.O.O.F. Cemetery.” I.O.O.F. is an abbreviation for “Independent Order of Odd Fellows,” a fraternal organization which at one point owned the cemetery.

Now known as Oceanview Cemetery, it is a bit neglected. But someone is mowing the grass and providing minimal maintenance.

Walking among the headstones, I was surprised to find the name “Baines” on a couple of them. That’s the maiden name of my paternal grandmother, Esther Frances Washington. Were these relatives?

Sergeant Robert T. Baines is indicated to have served with Company I of the 2nd Arkansas Cavalry Regiment. My grandmother’s family has history in the northwest Arkansas area.

The headstone is in the shape and style of a Civil War veteran, with the rounded top and “shield” relief consistent with a Union soldier’s marker. There are no dates, but the marker appears to be the shorter style authorized for use prior to 1903, thereafter, a taller version was authorized.

Interestingly, Wikipedia says,

Although Arkansas joined the Confederate States of America in 1861, not all of its citizens supported secession. Arkansas formed some 48 infantry regiments to serve in the Confederate Army, but also formed another 11 regiments that served in the Union Army.

According to Baines family records compiled by D La Pierre Ballard, Robert Thomas “Bob” Baines was a farmer, who was born 10 April 1843 in Panola County, in East Texas; and died 9 October 1923. Bob appears to be a distant cousin; and we are both distant cousins of U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

As a side note, Johnson served as a U.S. Navy commander in WWII. He was awarded the Silver Star for volunteering as an observer on a high-risk bombing mission during the New Guinea campaign in the Pacific Theater. He subsequently authored a report documenting “deplorable and unacceptable conditions” for our troops in the Pacific; resulting in better funding and supplies.

Bob Baines was fortunate to have survived the Civil War, and died at the age of 80. I do not have any other records relating to Bob Baines, but according to a report by the California Office of Historic Preservation,

Statistics show the [Oceanview] cemetery contains the remains of over 55 veterans of every major military conflict involving the United States from the Civil War through World War II inclusive.

Among them, I note the headstone of Joseph C. Flores, cited in the same OHP report as,

…a World War II veteran killed in action January 24, 1945, who was returned to Oceanside a hero, being awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star posthumously…

The Silver Star Medal is the United States Armed Forces’ third-highest military decoration for valor in combat.

Joseph C Flores headstone
Image by Barbara (Pfefferle) Sullivan via FindAGrave

Flores’s headstone indicates he was a Private First Class with the US Army’s 169th Infantry Regiment of the 43rd Infantry Division, and he was just 18 years old at the time of his death.

On the date of Flores’s death, January 24th, 1945, the 169th Infantry Regiment was engaged in action against fierce resistance by Japanese occupiers on Luzon, the largest of the Philippine islands. During the battles on Luzon, the regiment lost 17 officers and 248 enlisted men KIA, among them probably PFC Flores.

Silver Star medal.png

I do not know any more of the story of Joseph Flores, and Wikipedia says,

The Department of Defense does not keep extensive records for the Silver Star Medal. Independent groups estimate that between 100,000 and 150,000 SSMs have been awarded since the decoration was established.

Regardless, I believe Flores’s Silver Star should have been noted on the headstone, and I celebrate his gallant service on this Memorial Day.

On another side note, my search for information on Joseph Flores also turned up an excellent article by local Oceanside historian, Kristi Hawthorne, entitled, “Death of a Cemetery.” In it, Kristi chronicles the sad and interesting story of the old Buena Vista Cemetery in Oceanside, which was disrespectfully lost to developers. Some of those interred at Buena Vista were moved to the I.O.O.F. Cemetery.



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