Service not to be forgotten

HB Independent

There is a 94-line statement about Memorial Day outside Huntington Beach City Hall that says more than any editorial the Independent could ever write.

That is the city's war memorial, which displays the names of 94 Huntington Beach residents who died in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.

The monument was dedicated May 26, 1997, and expanded later to include the Iraq casualties. It's doubtful those will be the last names ever added to it.

When a major tragedy shakes American society — 9/11, the Challenger, Virginia Tech, Hurricane Katrina — there is always an acute period of mourning that lasts a few days or weeks.

People rally and hold vigils on the street corner; schools run charity drives; the faces of the dead sear themselves into our collective consciousness.

Then, inevitably, the moment passes. The street corners empty, school goes back to the curriculum, and the media move on.

Is that callousness? No, just survival. Whatever catastrophe has recently occurred outside the neighborhood, people still have bills to pay, children to raise and food to put on the table, and even the most compassionate person can't grieve forever.

With an annual event like Memorial Day, that disconnect becomes even more pronounced. How many people stop to think about the implications of the last Monday in May? In modern times, with the holiday hailed as the unofficial start of summer and movie studios racing to put out the new "Spider-Man" film before June, Memorial Day has become a day for partying as much as a day for reflection.

Not so for everyone, though. The city's annual Memorial Day ceremony at Pier Plaza regularly draws a crowd of hundreds. The Huntington Beach High School band plays, politicians make speeches, and veterans — plenty of them — gather to pay their respects.

Bob Davis, the commander of the Honor Guard for American Legion Huntington Beach Post 133, told the Independent this week about his thoughts during the event. He comes from a long line of veterans, he said, with family members serving in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, both World Wars and Vietnam.

"My brothers are still alive, but everyone else has passed on," Davis said. "I usually think about all them."

Monday morning, we hope other people will think about them as well. And we hope a few will stop outside City Hall to remember that for some in Huntington Beach, Memorial Day is more than a day off work.

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