LAKEWOOD -- For many Americans, Memorial Day is a break from work, a day marked by barbecues and special sales.
Veterans, their families and others who gathered at Del Valle Park on Monday for Lakewood's annual Memorial Day ceremony see it differently, as a time to honor those who served their country and gave their lives so it may yet fulfill its promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Chief Deputy Director Stephanie A. Stone noted a somber set of numbers from the last 100 years in her keynote address: more than 100,000 dead in World War I, 400,000 in World War II, 36,000 in the Korean War, 58,000 in Vietnam and 6,000 in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"This day is reserved for the men and women who were part of our lives," Stone said.
"The fathers and the mothers, the sisters and the brothers, the sons and the daughters who lived in our town, went to our schools, played with our children and prayed in our churches."
Lakewood Mayor Steve Croft suggested in his own remarks that the gratitude of the crowd should continue past the day's ceremony.
As a decade of war comes to an end, Croft said, the nation must support, encourage and nurture hundreds of thousands of veterans who need help restarting their lives.
"The challenges facing veterans today range from unemployment to homelessness, to mental, emotional and physical impacts that must be addressed," said Croft.
The mayor noted that many of Lakewood's earliest homebuyers in the 1950s were veterans who fought in World War II, and in a spirit of volunteerism, some founded the Lakewood Youth Sports program and did other work to build the city into what it is today.
"It's our turn now," Croft said, urging citizens to do what they can to ensure that veterans have access to education, jobs and other services so they may transition from war.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
From yesterday's Long Beach Press Telegram, "Memorial Day: Lakewood honors fallen veterans":