Bella Vida hosts Memorial Day sing-along tribute

Members of the President Ronald Reagan Marine Corps League Detachment 597 opened the Memorial Day tribute at Bella Vida with an opening flag ceremony. Ryan Mancini/The Signal

Senior veterans from across the Santa Clarita Valley were honored with a Memorial Day tribute at the Bella Vida Senior Center on Friday.

The tribute began with an opening flag ceremony led by the President Ronald Reagan Marine Corps League Detachment 597. It continued with a patriotic sing-along led by the Memory Makers, who performed songs to honor the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, the Air Force, the Navy and the Coast Guard. The band continued with the national anthem, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Yankee Doodle,” among other songs.

Close to 40 veterans, from regular visitors to new guests at the Senior Center, attended with their wives and family members. They sang along, even when the band was notified one of the seniors in attendance, Dorothy Medina, was about to turn 95 years old and everyone sang “Happy Birthday.”

“It’s really quite an honor and I always get kind of choked up when I think about (the veterans) and think about my experiences, many of which you wouldn’t trade for them,” said Amos Clemmons, lead singer of the Memory Makers. “They were just wonderful, but you wouldn’t want to do it again.”

Clemmons, a retired Army chaplain, sang as husband-and-wife duo Tom and Barbara Jones performed alongside with banjo and trumpet. Bella Vida music director John Swinford played the piano.

“That’s the real issue with music, is to somehow internalize the music and the message of the music in such a way that you can put that passion out and it catches the listener,” he said. “Then, you really have done music. You can do notes and you can do the technical stuff, but it’s the passion, joy and freedoms in it.”

Veteran Larry Roques visits Bella Vida every day, he says. A former seaman on the USS Renshaw, he smiled as he took in the event, “starting to feel it a little bit,” he said.

“It’s fun,” Roques added. “I’m glad to honor these guys.”

As the singing continued, guests were served lunch and cake. Robin Clough, advocacy and volunteers coordinator, said Friday’s tribute was the first not led by Korean War veteran Bernie Katz, who served as president of the veterans committee at the Senior Center. Katz passed away on Feb. 22.

“It’s particularly heartbreaking this time, because it’s the first time he has not been the one up there leading us,” Clough said.

Clough said Bella Vida is not only committed to providing more space for more seniors and veterans, but to also continue their veteran services which Katz was passionate about.

“It’s nice to be able to have them here where we can enhance their life some way,” she said, “show them the respect they deserve, which is important.”

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