The Santa Clarita Valley Veterans Memorial Committee is hosting a Memorial Day ceremony to honor veterans, with a focus on local Purple Heart recipients, at Eternal Valley Memorial Park on May 29.
The ceremony is an annual tradition at the Newhall cemetery, with Santa Clarita Mayor Jason Gibbs acting as emcee this year.
Gibbs was looking forward to the opportunity to honor veterans as someone whose grandfather was part of the force that landed in Normandy to help liberate France from Nazi occupation during World War II and who had a great uncle die in the Battle of the Bulge during World War I, he said Wednesday.
“This event was one of the first events I got involved in when I started getting involved in the community so it’s really an honor,” he said.
Rick Barker, a Purple Heart recipient himself for his service during the Vietnam War and an organizer for the event as a member of the committee, said there will be 18 veterans recognized during the event, which has a different theme every year.
For Barker and many Vietnam War-era veterans, many of whom were mistreated or scorned upon their return from service, the opportunity to hold events like this celebration carries a special significance, he said.
“Back when we came back from Vietnam, we weren’t treated real well — and that’s changed. And it’s very good that it’s changed. So to those of U.S. in that era, it’s very important and, I’ve seen grown men, myself included, kind of choke up when we are honored by our citizens,” he said.
Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, a Navy veteran, is also expected to be on hand for the ceremony, which will include a speech from Bill Hutton, a Vietnam War-era veteran and former president of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Hutton was wounded three times in combat, according to information provided by event organizers, the last time in 1966, during an incident in which he led his company against well-fortified North Vietnamese machine gun bunkers for two days. In 1969, he started a 35-year career with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
There will also be a flyover from the Condor Squadron made up of World War II North American AT-6 airplanes. Guests are asked to arrive early in order to ensure an available seat.
The ceremony is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Eternal Valley is located at 23287 N. Sierra Highway.
Memorial Day ceremony honorees
1. U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rick Barker, Vietnam
2. U.S. Army Master Sgt. Joe Barker, Iraq
3. U.S. Army Sgt. Bill Reynolds, Vietnam
4. U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Max Morgan, Vietnam
5. U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Bill Hutton, Vietnam
6. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mel Barnes, Vietnam
7. U.S. Army Sgt. Johnathan Morita, Afghanistan
8. U.S. Army Cpl. Nick Weber, Iraq
9. U.S. Army Sgt. Jerry Schlund, Vietnam
10. U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Phil Sutherland, Vietnam
11. U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Alex Kras, Iraq
12. U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Anthony Munoz, Iraq
13. U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Coy Reyes, Iraq
14. U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Kimberlin Bain, Iraq
15. U.S. Army Specialist Patrick Armendariz, Vietnam
16. U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. James Hall, Vietnam
17. U.S. Army Specialist Omar Herrera, Iraq