A Big Wet Kiss for our Veterans

Happy Veteran’s Day!

Here at the BMH, we celebrated the holiday with a free night for the first member of the military who called and reserved a room, and discounts for any other veterans who stayed with us this evening.

As much as we love the idea of a special geared to our veterans on Veteran’s Day, we can’t take credit for it: most of the bed and breakfasts in St. Augustine participated in the promotion.

In honor of those vets, and all of the others who have protected/are protecting us around the world, I thought it would be appropriate to focus on one of St. Augustine’s most recognized landmarks: the Castillo de San Marcos. It’s the fort that “welcomes” you as you come into town. It’s been “welcoming” visitors to St. Augustine since 1672.

The fort was built by the Spanish, like most of St. Augustine. It’s the spitting image of two forts I toured in Puerto Rico: the Castillo de San Cristobal and Castillo de San Felipe El Morro.

The Castillo de San Marcos was designed by Spanish engineer Ignacio Daza using the “bastion” system. That just means that it’s got diamond-shaped projections (or bastions) at each corner of the fort, so that there were no blind spots for the guards. Speaking of guards, they all hung out in the garitas or sentry boxes at the corner of each bastion. Whenever they were under attack, they shot from those garitas. Because of the shape of the fort, they could shoot at a target from several different angles without shooting each other.

The fort is owned by the National Park Service, and is open for self-guided tours. Each visitor gets a walking tour pamplet and a map, both full of some surprising facts. Like the fact that the walls are up to 19 feet thick at the base of the fort, and they’re made of blocks of coquina, a sedimentary rock comprised of shells, that’s found in Florida. The coquina is actually soft when harvested, and has to harden for one to three years before you can build with it (there goes my plan for a coquina-built cement pond in the back yard). Once used in a building, the rock retains some of those soft qualities, so when it gets hit with a cannon ball, the cannon ball sinks into the rock like a big butt sinks into a Tempurpedic mattress.

To give you an idea of the size of the fort, you should know that it was built with over 400,000 blocks of that coquina stuff.

And as big as that number is, it’s only about 1/3 the number of active military personnel we have in the United States. And it’s half the number of people in the reserves. That’s a lot of people. And a lot of  forts.

I don’t have enough space here to thank all of our country’s veterans. If I were to buy a red carnation for every man and woman who have served through the years and then placed that carnation in the Castillo de San Marcos, I’m sure that the fort would be overflowing with flowers (and I would be completely broke).

So I’ll simply say “thank you” to the selfless veterans who have served through the years. All the way back to the men who protected St. Augustine in the Castillo de San Marcos 300 years ago.

Thank you. And happy Veteran’s Day!