An aircraft flyover by the Condor Squadron kicked off this year’s Memorial Day service held at the war memorial at McCambridge Park on Monday.
World War II veteran and actor Jimmy Weldon was featured during the ceremony with his well-known speech called “The Presentation of Old Glory. “
“Patriotic isn’t what it used to be, but we’ll renew it right now,” he said before beginning his talk.
As he looked at and touched the American flag, he spoke enthusiastically and proudly of what the American flag should mean to the residents of the United States, past and present.
“I rode with Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys at battle at Fort Bennington,” the 90-year-old said of the flag as he moved to different positions around it and gazed at its stars and stripes. “I was flown above the decks of Old Ironsides and the masts of Yankee Clippers. I blazed a trail with Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. I led the settlers coming west. We crossed Death Valley in a covered wagon. Once I fell to the ground at Custer’s Last Stand at the Little Bighorn. There were no living hands left to pick me up. But I got up the slopes in San Juan Hill with Col. Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders in the United States Cavalry.”
At the end of his presentation, Weldon asked the audience to join him in saying the Pledge of Allegiance, hopefully with new vigor and patriotism.
Capt. James Yun, who has served in the U.S. Army for 10 years, spoke of the meaning of the day.
“(Fallen soldiers) represent the strength of our country and the true meaning of sacrifice,” Yun said.
He said he’s served with all types of people with different social and economic backgrounds from across the country.
“There was, however, a common thread between these men and women,” Yun said. “There is no veteran that makes sacrifices with the intention of being recognized or thanked for what they do.”
They do it because they know they are fighting for freedom for all, he added.
Yun said he’s served with many military personnel who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“Today, it’s not their passing that I remember. It’s their lives that I celebrate.”
Gatto said there has been an effort underway to turn Fort Ord, which was taken out of service in the 1990s in Northern California, into a military cemetery.
Federal officials have approved millions of dollars toward the effort and money has been raised from private citizens.
But there is still a significant shortfall, Gatto said.
This past year, the state Legislature appropriated $1 million to convert Fort Ord into a cemetery for military personnel in California, meaning the cemetery looks like it’s going to happen, he said.
He also said the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which he chairs, approved funding last week for a military cemetery in Orange County.
Schiff said the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill urging Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to add the names of 74 sailors lost on the U.S. Frank E. Evans during the Vietnam War to the Vietnam Wall.
The ship was cut in half by an Australian aircraft carrier in the South China Sea in June 1969, while participating in a training exercise.
Because the U.S.S. Evans was not technically in the combat zones when the incident occurred, the fallen sailors names were never added to the memorial.
Schiff has been working for years with the administration and successive Secretaries of Defense, trying to get the sailors’ names on the memorial after being contacted by a surviving family member of one of the sailors who perished.
Hopefully, with the bipartisan support from the House, Hagel, himself a Vietnam War veteran, will approve adding the names, Schiff said.
Schiff also told of a young reserve petty officer, married with three children, who was called up to serve. Before her deployment, she found that all her shoes had been glued together, Schiff said.
When she realized that her 5-year-old had done it, she asked her husband why he allowed the boy to attach her shoes with glue. The husband replied he didn’t want to see her go either.
Despite the time she would have to spend away from her family, the petty officer said she was proud to serve her country, Schiff said.
Follow Mark Kellam on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam.