Orange County Supervisor Pat Bates paid tribute at Memorial Day ceremonies in Laguna Beach to America’s war dead and to the ideals for which they fought.
Bates was the keynote speaker at the annual ceremony, held Monday at Monument Point in Heisler Park and organized by Laguna’s American Legion Post 222 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5868.
“We are joining millions across the nation today, honoring the men and women who proudly wore the uniform of the United States,” Bates said.
The last Monday in May has been set aside since 1868 to remember and to honor those who died in American wars and conflicts.
“But as important as honoring them is remembering what they died for, their commitment to the ideals we hold dear,” Bates said.
She urged the audience to ensure that their children and grandchildren do not forget America’s heroes or the rights for which they fought.
“Certainly we have made mistakes, but we have attempted to correct them and cure injustices where we found them,” Bates said. “I am reminded that we are a nation of patriots who revere history and love this country.”
She closed her address with a quote from “In Flanders Field,” the poem written by Canadian army physician, Lt. Col. John McCrae in 1915 as witness to the lives lost there in battle:
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep
Though poppies grow in Flanders Field.
Paper replicas of the red poppies of Flanders Field are made by disabled and hospitalized veterans and worn on Memorial Day. Donations collected from the wearers by the women’s auxiliaries of the VFW and the Legion benefit the veterans and their families.
Auxiliary Presidents Diane Connell and Dorothy Toomey, and Mayor Kelly Boyd, a veteran, also spoke at the ceremony.
“I take this day to think about the comrades I lost,” Boyd said. “But we need to remember those in the conflicts fighting to protect us.”
Retired U.S. Marine Corps. pilot Col. Charles Quilter II was the voice for the members of the posts who died in the past year — responding, “Not Here,” when the names of Stan Brown, Evan Ellison, Richard Goehring, Lee Harris, Bert Lynn, William Moulton, Robert Piel, Col. Anosta Pisegna, Russell Reeves and James Stewart were called and the bell tolled.
“It is an honor to do this,” Quilter said.
Seating was limited, with less than half of the usual number of chairs provided despite a typically large crowd, which irked auxiliary member Jean Law.
Fellow auxiliary member Sandi Werthe said the problem was that many aging veterans didn’t have the physical stamina to bring in the usual number of chairs. Law said the task of hauling the chairs to Monument Point, setting them up and taking them down could be performed in the future by the city’s Boy Scout Troop 35 or Laguna Beach High School students who are required to donate community service hours to graduate.
Even some of the community groups that offer floral arrangements in remembrance were standing this year. Donating groups included the posts and the auxiliaries, the Daughters of the American Revolution, Ebell Club, the Exchange Club, Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters, Friends of the Laguna Beach Library, Friends of the Hortense Miller Gardens, the Chamber of Commerce, Firefighters Association, Police Employees Assn., Taxpayers Assn., Visitors and Conference Bureau, Laguna Board of Realtors, Rotary, Susi Q Senior Center, St. Vincent de Paul, Sawdust Festival and Soroptimists.
The ceremony ended with the traditional raising of the flag from half-staff in recognition of those who gave their lives for their country to full-staff.
The ceremony was sandwiched in between the annual Exchange Club Pancake Breakfast, at which locals traditionally acknowledge the start of the tourist season, and the Laguna Community Concert Band performance at Main Beach.
Firefighters Bryan Sarjeant, Jarett Jensen, Dan Stefano Chris Orneles, Thomas Padden, Robert Abijya, Api Weinert and his son, Trevor, Division Chief Jeff LaTendresse and his son, Cody, and Chief Mike Macey flipped flapjacks and grilled sausages from 7 to 10:30 a.m. under the supervision of Generalissimo Sande St. John.
St. John also marshaled a troop of volunteers and solicited the donation of pancake mix from the White House and the other edibles and beverages from Las Brisas. The Jazzy Boy Jeff Band entertained.
And, as always, one of the most popular features of the breakfast was the Fire Department’s 1931 Seagrave pumper engine on which youngsters clambered under the watchful eye of retired Fire Captain Eugene D’Isabella.
D’Isabella drove the Seagrave when it was still in active service, drives it in the Patriots Day Parade and is diligently seeking a permanent home for the revered engine in its retirement.
Public Memorial Day activities concluded with the Laguna Community Concert Band performance on the Cobblestones at Main Beach.
The 12:30 p.m. start time allowed people time to stroll down from the veteran’s ceremonies to the Cobblestone Area of Main Beach, where the band entertained a holiday crowd with a program of patriotic music, including toe-tapping marches and military theme songs, interspersed with popular standards.
The band’s Dixieland Jazz group, Third Street Strutters, led by local Matt Wood, played a special arrangement of “Emperor Norton’s Hunch” by local Randy Woltz.