The mood was somber at Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary as hundreds of servicemen and military family members from World War II and beyond came to pay their respects to the memories of Santa Clarita’s fallen troops.
Eternal Valley held its Memorial Day Tribute on Monday morning — a ceremony that included speeches from Santa Clarita veterans like councilman and former Green Beret Bob Kellar and retired Navy fighter pilot Mike Garcia, a flyover by World War II AT6 aircraft and a rifle salute by the Ronald Reagan Marine Corps League, Simi Valley.
Bill Reynolds, president of Santa Clarita Valley Veterans Memorial Inc., and Kellar, who presided over the event as the master of ceremonies, spoke about the sacrifices of the nation’s servicemen and their families, especially of those who did not make it home. Kellar drew special attention to the veterans of the Korean War, to whom the ceremony was dedicated, and to the veterans of World War II who were present.
“There are (approximately) 7,000 veterans resting here among these beautiful hillsides, so for some of us, especially our Gold Star families, every day is Memorial Day,” Reynolds said.
Mayor Marsha McLean attended the ceremony and said she felt honored to live in a city that held such respect and honor for its veterans.
“It’s always sad to have to memorialize those who have died but it is something we do with pride and to never forget the sacrifices they have made as well as those who are still serving,” McLean said. “My heart goes out to the Gold Star families of Santa Clarita, and I cannot imagine how it must feel to lose a loved one in the military. We will never forget them.”
Sgt. George Patton said he appreciated the ceremony’s dedication to Korean War veterans like himself because “we didn’t get a lot of recognition when we came home.”
Sgt. 1st Class Tosh Watanabe, another Korean War veteran, said he was emotionally moved by the ceremony.
“It was a really nice ceremony and it really kinds gets you right there in the chest,” Watanabe said. “My time in the military was a very good experience and it has really stuck with me since my youth. All of the vets and fighting forces of our country need to be unified in a true course and let the side distractions be discarded. We can’t lose this country, it’s too good.”
After the main ceremony, several local students read the list of names engraved in the Santa Clarita Valley Veterans Memorial.
“It’s important because it is recognition for the lives they lost,” said Keith Wyatt, a retired Marine Corps lance corporal.
Richard Nunally, general manager of Eternal Valley, thanked the crowd at the end of the ceremony for coming to honor the service members laid to rest there.
“Thank you for remembering the true meaning of Memorial Day,” Nunally said. “It’s not the three-day weekends at the lake. It’s not the great deal you got on your mattress. It’s about taking the time to remember that we are the land of the free because of the brave.”