Many people associate Virginia Beach with cocktails in the sun and romance in the air. But the beautiful shoreline has brought much more to the city than tourism over the decades.
Due to a legacy of terrible storms and gale-force winds, the people of this coastal region have witnessed unending shipwrecks from their sandy shores.
Today, the Coast Guard and other military heroes are honored in the Naval Aviation Monument Park.
But beware: Wherever you find this many monuments to military heroism, it doesn’t take much digging before buried atrocities of the past bubble to the surface.
A Historic Legacy of Heroism and Heartbreak
The Coast Guard has a long-standing history in the city, executing rescue missions to save victims from relentless waves and deadly wreckage. For over a century, the US military has held a prominent place in Virginia Beach’s heroic, sometimes hidden history.
In 1910, Eugene Ely was the first aviator to take off into flight from the deck of a ship, right in Hampton Roads. The waters off of Virginia Beach became a prominent training ground for brave military men and women practicing with aircraft carriers, ships, planes, submarines, and more. The military training in this region prepared aviators and soldiers for countless battles in all of the United States’ deadliest wars, from WW1 to Korea to Vietnam.
Dedicated in 2006 by the Hampton Roads Squadron of the Naval Aviation Foundation Association, the Naval Aviation Monument is, unsurprisingly, a key fixture of the park that shares its name. This monument, along with all the other bronze statues sprinkled throughout the park, honors the brave Americans who fought for their country.
But the more people Virginia Beach sent into battle, the more news of death returned to their shores. Many have said that terrified cries for mercy and sorrowful regrets for never returning home echo through the monument park, carried out to sea by those powerful gale-force winds.