Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Teamwork created a meaningful, reverent Memorial Day service in the park

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Teamwork created a meaningful, reverent Memorial Day service in the park
Veterans, from left, Dennis Flag, Ronnie Guyer and Ken Tanaka applaud speeches by fellow veterans during the Memorial Day service at La Cañada Flintridge Memorial Park. (Photo by Dan Watson)

To my dear team who made La Cañada's Memorial Service on Monday memorable: You were magnificent!

The devotion of honoring the soldiers echoed throughout Memorial Park — and it was because of you. The ultimate test is our willingness to sacrifice for future generations and yet do so when words of thanks are seldom heard. But Monday on the park's field you honored the fallen — those who made that ultimate sacrifice. Great devotions make us better people.


Katherine Whitfield, my aide dé camp — you immediately set the solemnity of the commemoration with your rendition of "Requiem for a Soldier."

Makenna Christenson and Patrick Kalb — your commanding presence defined the gravitas of the morning. You guys were a class act.


Kayla Pereira — you honored the memory of a great man, the late Councilman Dave Spence. How does one pay tribute to such a man with mere words? But your sweet voice and heartfelt delivery were worthy of Mr. Spence.

Spencer Shackle, our team chaplain — your moment of thoughtful prayer reminded us that regardless of circumstance, we should always look toward the heavens.

Sofie Daley, Clara Henriod, Nina Lidar and Maggie Mackenzie, our commemoration singers — thank you for your gift of song. Music is the magic beyond all that we do.

Mr. Stone — thank you! You brought the band and they "Summoned the Heroes" and brought us to our feet with the national anthem. Please convey my appreciation to the bugler and drummer.

David Miketta, our team adjutant — you brought the flag detail to attention. The preparatory command was critical and you nailed it. You ordered march, and so they did.

Steven Miketta, our Sergeant of the Guard — a sergeant's role in the guard evolved from Baron von Steuben, George Washington's inspector general at Valley Forge. You carried the tradition.

First Sgt.Turner — your regiment exhibited military bearing throughout. We were honored to have them. The precision of your guard was of the highest military tradition. Please give my humble thanks to your soldiers.

Mr. Ferguson — you are La Cañada's own. Thank you for bringing your troops. Please convey my gratitude to your boys.

Gordon Wulke — thank you for your meticulous attention to detail throughout the area of operation.

Troop 502, my detail — the tradition of guarding the colors stems from the 24th Wisconsin's attack on Confederate positions on Missionary Ridge, Tennessee. Flag bearer after flag bearer fell, yet the American flag moved forward. After another bearer went down the attack stalled the regiment's commanding officer Arthur MacArthur grabbed the flag before it fell and ordered, "On Wisconsin." The regiment surged and swept the field.

Troop 6051, 6071, Cub, Daisy, and Brownies, who led the Pledge of Allegiance — we all rallied around your words. Your diligence was shown through your uniforms and your never-ending pledge of loyalty.

Shelby Lawrence — you created the link between the moment at hand and the memory of more than one million soldiers who died in American wars.

Megan Andrews, Katherine Whitfield, Shelby Lawrence, Sophia Stephen Naomi Stephen, Ashley Dietrich, John Moore, Allison Muller, Lenny Pieroni and Sissy Whitfield — you told the stories of soldiers, and by doing so, you brought them back to life. You knew what I wanted, and you delivered. You can't imagine how proud I was listening to you speak.

Dearest Edie, Alexa, Charlotte, Anna, Claire, April and David — you read the names beautifully. My youngest readers! I studied the faces of the veterans who stood behind you. You children are the very reason for the sacrifices they made.

Danni, the leader of Troop 982 — Diligent! Caring! Loyal! You are a gift to this community. The children under your watch will flourish.

Lola — thanks for helping with rehearsals.

Karen Mcllevena — the Pipes!

Sydney — the bell echoed.

Arland Whitfield — thank you for your photography.

Dr, Brookey — thank you for bringing the Chamber Singers. The music was haunting, and your students were the alchemy of the commemoration.

Special thanks to my staff. Elizabeth Whitfield, you held the floor. Jessica Stephen, you assisted. Jack Joy, I turn to you for everything. Jack Mackenzie, you brought and nurtured the commemorative singer and under your watch, I didn't worry about sound. Ashley Lawrence, you were all over the field, smoothing out the loose ends. Simone Puglia, thank you for organizing the little ones. Brent Whitfield, thanks for immortalizing our endeavor on film. Thank you!

This was an extraordinary effort and I like the way we did it together. You are hereby relieved of your duties.

Stay gold,

Dr. Joe

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a retired professor of education and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at Visit his website at