As a volley of shots rang out, the Santa Clarita Valley’s veterans saluted their fallen comrades during Monday’s Memorial Day Tribute ceremony at Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary.
Hundreds gathered for the Santa Clarita Valley Memorial Day Committee’s annual ceremony, which returned to its in-person format this year to honor the men and women who died serving the country.
“The fallen we honor here today made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, for our freedom, for the privilege of living in the greatest country in the history of the free world,” said former Navy SEAL Max Morgan, the event’s master of ceremonies and the committee’s public affairs officer. “(But) Memorial Day isn’t just for the fallen. It’s also to honor the families and loved ones of the (service members) that paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
On the 20th anniversary of Desert Shield/Storm, also referred to as the Gulf War, the ceremony honored the war’s veterans with a backdrop consisting of photos of local veterans serving during this time period, as well as military memorabilia and vehicles, while keynote speaker David Jackson, the committee’s vice president and an Army veteran who served during Desert Storm, recapped the events that transpired.
“What I take back from my service — and I would never trade it for anything in the world — is that this is the best country in the world,” Jackson said, adding that holidays to honor the country’s military such as this one give the nation an opportunity to make a commitment to keep it that way. “We’re here on this Earth for a finite time, so make the best of it because a lot of young men and women sacrifice, gave all, so you can have this opportunity, so take it and run with it.”
Of the veterans recognized during the ceremony was World War II veteran George Rogers, 96, who joined the U.S. Army Air Corp in 1942 at age 17 and flew numerous missions as a tail gunner on a B-24 Liberator.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Rogers said. “I don’t look at myself as a hero, but they won’t let me forget (my service). I really appreciate it.”
Following the ceremony, guests traveled through the cemetery, which had been filled with more than 5,000 American flags placed by local Brownies, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts to honor the veterans buried there, to the Veterans Memorial Wall for the reading of the more than 900 names inscribed on it.
Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, who also spoke at the ceremony, said it is imperative that the nation come together on this day, more than any other.
“(We need to) remember those who have given all, pay respect and honor their families and help us all heal, little by little,” Garcia said. “But we also must remember this every day of every year, and for the entirety of our lives.”
The committee has already begun plans for next year’s ceremony, including creating a GoFundMe to raise funds.