Seventy years after graduating from Newport Harbor High School, George Grupe gave the Veteran's Address at his alma mater's 20th annual Memorial Day ceremony.
Having helped organize the first ceremony two decades ago, Grupe has never missed the event that honors Newport Harbor alumni who died while serving in the military.
"We had a lot of Medal of Honor recipients in this area," said Grupe, Class of 1940. "It's something that we can be truly proud of."
More than 300 students, faculty and community members were on hand. While the school does not make attendance at the ceremony mandatory, the event is open to all grades and has always attracted a large gathering of students, Vice Principal David Martinez said.
Student Political Action Committee President Abby Michaelsen, a junior, helped veteran and school alumnus Daron McGavern read the names of 37 Newport Harbor graduates killed in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. A soldier who died while serving in Iraq, Jose Garibay, also was honored.
"It's important for teens to recognize those who came before them," said Michaelsen, 17. "It's because of those men and women that we're able to live in a safe community today."
The annual ceremony leads into the three-day Memorial Day weekend for the 2,300 students enrolled at the school — and it's the school's duty to make sure that students take time to realize the holiday's significance, Principal Michael Vossen said.
"[The students] haven't lived through anything like World War II," Vossen said, "Helping them know about that sacrifice is an obligation."
Virginia Eichler, class of 1940, knew many of the honorees from classes they shared as teenagers.
"The school was so small back then that you knew everyone," she said. "This ceremony is so beautiful every year."