Veterans, their families, and local dignitaries gathered at Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary in Newhall for a Memorial Day tribute on Monday.
In attendance were Mayor Laurene Weste, Mayor Pro Tem Jason Gibbs, Rep. Mike Garcia, Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares, and former City Council member Bob Kellar, who now leads the Santa Clarita Valley Veterans Memorial as its president.
“Our committee extends its sincere appreciation to all that have supported our efforts,” said Kellar. “Thank you for making our memorial a Santa Clarita community monument. It is dedicated to the glory of God and to the men and women who helped preserve our freedom.”
The program began with a prelude of military marches led by Tim Durand, conductor for the SCV Concert Band, before a welcoming address from Max Morgan, master of ceremonies and Vietnam War veteran.
Morgan said in his opening address that the world was becoming more dangerous and called on young people to enlist in the military.
“Some of you young people who are here today may not have the money or be prepared for college. Consider joining the armed services,” said Morgan. “While some politicians and those in the media try to divide us by socioeconomic class, by race, by gender, those divisions do not exist in the military. They do not exist among veterans.”
Following Morgan’s address, two flyovers were done by World War ll-era AT-6 fighter planes from the Van Nuys-based Condor Squadron. One flyover included a “missing man” formation, in which one plane breaks formation to honor the loss of a pilot.
An invocation was given by Pastor David Hegg of Grace Baptist Church and the posting of the colors was done by the Ronald Reagan Marine Corps League accompanied by bagpiper James Gilmore, followed by the pledge of allegiance and national anthem, sung by Claire Tester of Hart High School.
The keynote speaker of the event was Garcia, who said this event was always the hardest one of the year for him, but also the most important. In his address, he told a hypothetical story representative of the sacrifices veterans have made.
“Today I’d like to share with you what I think is the perspective of someone who we are honoring today,” Garcia said. “One of the fallen heroes that we’re honoring. I want to speak today from someone who may be buried just a few hundred feet away from us on this hallowed ground, give you their perspective on what today means, what Memorial Day means. I think he would say something along these lines.”
He then told the story of the veteran, who rose from a difficult upbringing to become a proud soldier and made the ultimate sacrifice, leaving behind a wife and small child, when his Humvee was taken out by an improvised explosive device.
Garcia also stated that although the U.S. is “worth dying for” it is not “not invincible and she’s only as good as you make her.” He also called for unity among Americans, regardless of political stances.
“I don’t care if you’re a Giants fan or a Dodgers fan. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. Treat each other like friends, treat each other like family,” said Garcia. “Remember we are all on the same team. The media, the social media, our adversaries, and even some of our own politicians will try to divide you. Don’t let them.”
Following Garcia’s speech was the ringing of an honor bell for fallen veterans and a three-shot rifle salute by the Ronald Reagan Marine Corps League.
After taps, the benediction, and the retirement of the colors, the program was closed by Richard Nunally, Navy veteran and general manager of Eternal Valley.
Sid Kirshner, an 88-year-old Korean War veteran, said the memorial was warm and did his heart good.
“The appreciation and all the people that turned out, that’s impressive too. Especially when you get to my age, 88, you know,” said Kirshner. “My…guys that I served with in Korea are all gone. I’m the last holding on.”