While all veterans who gave their lives in service of their country were honored at Memorial Day Tribute 2017, it was the handful of old “Greatest Generation” soldiers, however, who received special attention Monday.
When Master of Ceremonies, Fred Arnold, himself a veteran of the U.S. Air Force Reserves, addressed scores of attendees seated in front of the Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary and asked for World War II vets to stand up, about half a dozen white-haired men stood up.
Under sunny skies and against a constant cool breeze, Santa Clarita Valley’s World War II veterans were greeted with much applause and a standing ovation.
Lee Shulman, U.S. Army Air Corps World War II veteran, spoke as this year’s key note speaker, and confided in the audience there were three things that brought tears to his eyes: the bugle playing of “Taps;” the “missing man” flyover and a standing ovation.
“We live in a special place,” he said of the SCV. “I feel honored to be recognized.
“Today, we are dedicating our Memorial Day ceremonies to those who died in World War II. They were called the Greatest Generation,” he said.
“It is essential to remember those who sacrificed their lives,” he said. “Those are our heroes.”
The Santa Clarita Valley Concert Band played an Armed Forces Salute and an acknowledgement of wreath donors was made by Vietnam Veteran Jerry Rhodes.
The Young Marines of Santa Clarita Valley – with Raymond and Joshua Torres – made a presentation of flags to the grave markers.
“Last year, we buried my uncle who served at the Battle of the Bulge,” Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth told attendees. “And, I’ll tell you, my uncle was about 5-foot-5 but was the toughest SOB I’ve ever met.
“You never messed with my Uncle Tom, that was very clear. But, it just goes to show, that we’re losing those veterans and every day that number continues to dwindle,” Smyth said.
The mayor shared some statistics about the “Greatest Generation” with attendees Monday, noting that of the 16 million Americans who served in the Second World War, an estimated 600,000 of those vets were alive at the end of 2016.
“It’s sad that in my lifetime we’ll see all of our World War II veterans pass on, so today with a commitment to honor the Greatest Generation couldn’t be more appropriate,” he said.
In closing, Smyth singled-out the final two lines of the American national anthem , which he added was beautifully sung by Alesia Humphries, and noted: “We cannot truly be the land of the free if we were not the home of the brave.”
The event kicked off with a flyover by six Condor Squadron planes and an invocation made by Pastor Steve Peralta of the Valencia United Methodist Church.
There was a posting of various military flags and the pledge of allegiance done by World War II widow Mary Martin.
A special bell-ringing ceremony was carried out by HM3 Steve Quach, a Desert Storm veteran and Fausto Galvan, Vietnam vet of the U.S. Marine Corps.
“It seems that every year this gets bigger and bigger,” Bill Reynolds, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Veterans Memorial Inc., and Vietnam Veteran.
Smyth made special mention of the kids from the Boy Scouts of America who planted thousands of flags at the cemetery.
“When you see the thousands of flags placed by our scouts, and the amount of work these scouts had to do over the weekend, it is something we can really take pride in,” he said, referring to the Boy Scouts of America and Cub Scouts of the Bill Hart District, and the Girl Scouts, of Greater Los Angeles.
Sharon Ventrice, vice president of the Santa Clarita Valley Veterans Memorial, Inc., in honoring the Greatest Generation invited attendees to check out the “museum quality items” on display at the ceremonies.
The ceremony closed fittingly with the playing of Taps by Robert Martinez, a Vietnam vet with the U.S Marine Corps, and with a musical tribute by singer Alesia Humphries accompanied by guitarist Steve Dole, a rifle salute by the Ronald Reagan Marine Corps League of Simi Valley, a benediction by Pastor Peralta, a retiring of the colors by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 355, the lost patrol and “Amazing Grace” played on bagpipes by Cheslea Joy.
A reading of names inscribed at the cemetery followed the ceremonies with names read by Arif Halaby, Kevin Duxbury, Mark Murphy, Amos Clemmons and TimBen Boydston.
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