After being curtailed the past two years because of the coronavirus pandemic, in-person Memorial Day observances were held throughout Los Angeles County Monday.
The 75th annual Memorial Day Ceremony was held at the Mexican American All Wars Monument at Cinco Puntos in Boyle Heights, preceded by a 24-hour vigil where veterans and supporters stood guard at the monument. At least one person stands guard throughout the vigil.
“Someone has to keep the memory of the people that suffered and the people that died as a result of maintaining our freedom,” Vietnam War veteran Ruben Treviso told NBC4 after his shift ended. “That’s what it’s about.”
When the vigil began Sunday, a protest was held of the proposal to create a roundabout at the site and put the monument at its center.
Organizers called the proposal a “travesty and an obvious effort to hijack and convert the area to something it was never intended to be. Instead, Morin Memorial Square was consecrated to veterans in 1947 as a tribute to our Mexican-American heroes and should not be tampered with.”
Councilman Kevin de LÃ©on told CBS2 he made the proposal because “we need a safer intersection to eliminate dangers to pedestrians and drivers. The proposed project to create a roundabout will revitalize the memorial there today giving our veterans the recognition and admiration they earned.”
Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier conducted its 100th annual Memorial Day Observance and first since 2019, which included the display of 100 American flags, along with family activities, a military display, remembrance trees and a vintage aircraft flyover.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn spoke at observances at Whittier City Hall and the Veterans Monument in Pico Rivera, including discussing suicide among veterans.
“After 2 years of virtual events, it is so good to be back together in-person on Memorial Day,” Hahn tweeted. “As we honor these fallen soldiers for their service & their sacrifice, we should also remind ourselves that the true cost of war is lives, and rededicate ourselves to pursuing peace. Let us pray for an end to wars, and a day when we have no new names to mourn on this sacred day.”
Hahn also presented a ceremonial check for $60,000 from her office’s discretionary account at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9148, “to pay for badly needed building repairs so they can continue supporting local veterans and their families,” she tweeted.
The names of the members of the armed forces who gave their lives in service since the 9/11 attacks were read at the Honoring Our Fallen Memorial Wall remembrance gathering at Rosie the Riveter Park in Long Beach which began at 5:30 a.m. with a special bagpiper tribute. The reading of the names began at 5:45 a.m. by active-duty military, police and first responders.
“It was important to me to start this as the sun is rising,” Laura Herzog, the founder and CEO of Honoring Our Fallen, which provides support for families of service personnel killed in the line of duty during the transfer of remains, told CBS2.
“We all get to gather with our loved ones, our families, our friends, and have a barbecue, have a picnic and celebrate the beginning of summer and so forth. But, it’s an important day for us to remember those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice for us to be able to do so.”
Observances were also held at the Los Angeles National Cemetery in Westwood, Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes, Inglewood City Hall, the Wilmington Historical Cemetery, Pelona Vista Park in Palmdale, the Veterans Memorial at Glendale City Hall, the McCambridge Park War Memorial in Burbank and Tony Arceo Memorial Park in El Monte.
A Memorial Day Mass was celebrated at San Fernando Mission Cemetery and Mission Hills Catholic Mortuary in Mission Hills.
In his Memorial Day proclamation, President Joe Biden proclaimed Monday as a day of prayer for permanent peace, designating 11 a.m. in each time zone as a time during which people may unite in prayer, citing a 1950 joint resolution by Congress.
Biden also asked all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3 p.m. in each time zone under a bill signed into law in 2000 by then-President Bill Clinton. It was first held on Memorial Day in 2000 under a proclamation by Clinton in an attempt “to reclaim Memorial Day as the noble event it was intended to be, to honor those who died in service to our nation.”
The Moment of Remembrance is a “way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day,” its founder Carmella LaSpada said.
Biden’s proclamation also requested governors of all U.S. states and territories and the appropriate officials of all units of government to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout nation and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control.
Biden also requested the American public to display the flag at half-staff from their homes until noon Monday.
“On Memorial Day, we remember the patriots who gave their lives in the service of America, in the service of freedom and in the service of justice,” Biden declared in his proclamation.
“They made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our Constitution and our democracy. We are free because they were brave and we live by the light of the flame of liberty they kept burning.”
What became Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, as Decoration Day, a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Civil War dead with flowers.
It was established 25 days earlier by Maj. Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of veterans who fought for the Union in the Civil War. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the nation.
By the end of the 19th century, Decoration Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. After World War I, the holiday was changed to honor Americans who died fighting in all wars.
The term Memorial Day was first used in 1882, became more common after World War II and declared the official name by federal law in 1967.
Memorial Day had been observed on May 30, until being moved to the last Monday in May in 1971 under terms of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which became law in 1968.