Under iron gray skies, veterans of five wars and their families gathered at Riverside National Cemetery on Tuesday to grieve and remember.
"I come here to cry," said Ted Chivers, 80, of Hemet, who was flown into Pearl Harbor the day after it was attacked during World War II. "You gotta come, to make yourself feel like you're not forgotten."
Amid the wailing bugle and solemn color guard, and the quiet conversations and cheeks streaked with tears over thoughts of friends lost decades ago, the Veterans Day visitors also brooded about the risks for a new generation of soldiers.
"The thing about Iraq right now is it's an exact parallel to Vietnam," said Greg Anderson, 56, who fought in North Vietnam in 1967 and 1968. "They're picking us off one by one."
Behind Anderson stretched green lawns, some lined with neat, graveside plastic containers of flowers, others empty.
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Riverside) mourned a former intern in his office, Todd Bryant, who was killed Oct. 31 when an explosion rocked his Humvee as it headed for Baghdad.
Quoting Lincoln's address at the Gettysburg battlefield in November 1863, he said, "The world will little remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they ... so nobly advanced."
Mary Cain, 68, of Gardena, brought her 12-year-old granddaughter to see the grave of the grandfather she never met. A boiler tender chief who spent his career in the Coast Guard, serving in Korea and Vietnam, he died in a veterans hospital in 1986.
"It makes us feel closer, like we're listening for him," she said of the ceremony.
Cain, too, had the troops in Iraq on her mind.
"They're so young. It makes you sad," she said. "You never know whether they're coming home or not."
For some, Veterans Day is the one time they allow themselves to relive a painful past.
"I was in Korea ... Heartbreak Ridge," said Mike Fazio, 69, of Fontana, who brought his five children with him. He doesn't talk much to them or anyone about the carnage and destruction he saw overseas. "It was so long ago. But, oh, yes, I remember all of my friends ...." he said as tears welled in his eyes. "It's one of those things you don't want to remember. But today is special."