Southland honors fallen heroes on Memorial Day

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Wave Staff and Wire Reports

LOS ANGELES — The first public event for Memorial Day at the Los Angeles National Cemetery since 2019 was held May 29, with Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass among the speakers.

Bass recognized the service of fallen military members and discussed how the public can do more to serve veterans in need.

“Today is a day to remember all who have served, those who died on the front lines of war and those who died unhoused on our streets after returning home from serving this country,” Bass said. “One thing is clear: Our gratitude can never match the sacrifice that they made.”

The program also included remarks by Maj. Gen. Evan Dertian, the commander of the Air Force Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, music by the 300th Army Band and displays by Buffalo Soldier and Civil War reenactors.

Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez presided over a special outdoor Memorial Day Mass at San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

“We pray for all those who are in harm’s way today, in places all around the world. May the Lord protect them and bring them home safely to their families,” Gomez tweeted.

Pregame ceremonies preceding the Los Angeles Dodgers-Washington Nationals game at Dodger Stadium included 30 veterans, active duty service members and first responders making an honor lap around the warning track on bicycles and a recognition for the 1st Battalion 9th Marines who served in Vietnam.

Memorial Day ceremonies and observances also were also at Cinco Puntos (Five Points) in Boyle Heights, Whittier City Hall, Paramount City Hall, Veterans Memorial Fountain in South Gate, Veterans Memorial Plaza in Pico Rivera, Veterans Park in Bell Gardens, Inglewood City Hall, Huntington Park Community Center, the Veterans Memorial in Montebello City Park, Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, Norwalk City Hall and at Hollywood Post 43 of the American Legion.

Patrick Monroe, president of Rose Hills Memorial Park, highlighted the importance of upholding the legacy of honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country.

“We are proud to celebrate our 101st Memorial Day observance, and we are committed to continuing this longstanding tradition with our families,” he said.

The commemoration featured a vintage airplane flyover, musical performances, an honor guard and a keynote address from retired Army Brig. Gen. Dwaine E. Drummond.

“I am honored to stand with the community and express our gratitude for those men and women who demonstrated unimaginable courage and given their lives to serve and protect our nation,” Drummond said. “It is because of their heroic actions that we are able to live in the land of the free.”

In his Memorial Day proclamation, President Joe Biden proclaimed a day of prayer for permanent peace, designating 11 a.m. in each time zone as a time during which people may unite in prayer, citing a 1950 joint resolution by Congress.

Biden also asked all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3 p.m. in each time zone under a bill signed into law in 2000 by then-President Bill Clinton. It was first held on Memorial Day in 2000 under a proclamation by Clinton in an attempt “to reclaim Memorial Day as the noble event it was intended to be, to honor those who died in service to our nation.”

The Moment of Remembrance is a “way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day,” its founder Carmella LaSpada said.

“On Memorial Day, we honor America’s beloved daughters and sons who gave their last full measure of devotion to this nation,” Biden declared in his proclamation. “We can never fully repay the debt we owe these fallen heroes.

“But today, we vow to rededicate ourselves to the work for which they gave their lives, and we recommit to supporting the families, caregivers, and survivors they left behind.”

What became Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, as Decoration Day, a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Civil War dead with flowers.

It was established 25 days earlier by Maj. Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of veterans who fought for the Union in the Civil War. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the nation.

By the end of the 19th century, Decoration Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. After World War I, the holiday was changed to honor Americans who died fighting in all wars.

The term Memorial Day was first used in 1882, became more common after World War II and declared the official name by federal law in 1967. 

Memorial Day had been observed on May 30, until being moved to the last Monday in May in 1971 under terms of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which became law in 1968.

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