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Local Events & Observances For Memorial Day

Local Events & Observances For Memorial Day

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From Gigi Graciette:

Wings Over Wendy's - When Heroes Meet for Coffee 

"We have three important rules at this meeting. We don't talk about politics, religion or sex.", says Captain Art Sherman when we meet at Wendy's in West Hills. 

"So basically we just sit around and look at each other. "His blues eyes twinkling, he then breaks out into laughter and I'm instantly smitten with this 93 years young World War II veteran.

And that is how I was introduced to "Wings over Wendy's" this Memorial Day.

The group of veterans meets every Monday morning at the fast good restaurant on Platt.

Coffee is courtesy of Ron the owner, who opens the doors to his restaurant extra early to accommodate the growing group.

As I write this, I am surrounded by history. Living history.

A few feet away is Clyde East. That's WWII fighter pilot Lieutenant Colonel Clyde East, listed in the Guiness Book of World Records 1955-56 as having the highest number of repeat awards of combat medals.

The missions he's flown are numbered in the hundreds.

Can you say hero?

Next to me is Motor Machinist Mate 2nd Class Barney Leone who's holding on tightly to an American flag.
It's the same flag that flew on his ship, the USS Nemasket in the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945.

A piece of history in the hands of a witness to history. He lets me touch the flag. It's emotional. For both of us. 

First Lieutenant Michael LaVere served with the 8th Air Force, 458th Bomb Group, flying 36 combat missions. He stands proud and tall in his uniform, sharing his tales of war; of learning and of loss.  

There is no war story here that does not include loss. 

Later on, I meet and interview Elmo and what an interview.

When I ask Lt. Colonel Elmo Maiden who he is remembering this Memorial Day he shares with me the story of one day during WWII. "I saw 120 men go down in flames; shot down over my left wing. It happened in one minute. 120 of them", he says. 

And as he speaks to me, I can see the pictures in his eyes. It's haunting.

"They're your heroes?", I ask, already knowing the answer. "They are", he answers.

And then there's Art and those twinkling blue eyes of his. 

I ask him who he's remembering; who he's honoring today.

"Archie Stein", he says without missing a beat. "He was my best friend in the war. Until I went away for a few days and when I came back, he was gone. Dead."

I can see the emotion, the long time hurt of loss clouding his blue eyes. The twinkle disappears.

"Archie is a hero. They're all heroes. The ones who didn't come back. Those are the ones we have to remember today. Archie. I remember Archie."

So here's to you Archie. 

And to each of the 120. 

And all of those who gave their all, including my new friends Art, Barney, Michael and Elmo.

Thank you.

(FOX 11 / CNS) Attempts to reduce homelessness among veterans will be the focus of Memorial Day observances planned for Brentwood and El Monte today, while Mayor Eric Garcetti will participate in three events, including a parade in Canoga Park.

The fourth annual 5-kilometer Walk for Warriors at the West Los Angeles VA Campus in Brentwood will begin at 8 a.m. The walk raises funds for New Directions for Veterans, which provides services to hundreds of homeless veterans and those at risk of homelessness, including transitional and permanent housing, individual and group therapy, help in finding jobs and legal assistance.

El Monte's Memorial Day Ceremony at Tony Arceo Memorial Park will begin at 9 a.m. It will include a tribute to POWs and MIAs and a keynote speech by former Army Sgt. Joe Leal, founder of Vet Hunters, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness among veterans.

Garcetti will begin his Memorial Day public appearances by speaking at the second annual Memorial Day Tribute Aboard the Battleship Iowa, which is docked in San Pedro.

Garcetti will be joined in speaking in remembrance of military men and women killed in the line of duty by Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, and Councilman Joe Buscaino at the ceremony, which is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.

Garcetti will then head for Boyle Heights, where he will participate in the last shift of the 67th annual 24-hour Memorial Day Vigil at the war memorial in Cinco Puntos. At least one person will be standing guard throughout the vigil that began at 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Garcetti will be among the participants in the Canoga Park Memorial Day Parade, which is due to begin at 11 a.m. at Owensmouth Avenue at Sherman Way, and continues along Sherman Way to Mason Avenue.

The theme of the 90-minute parade, which includes more than 70 entries, is "Saluting the Price of Freedom."

Organizers expect more than 5,000 people for the 29th Annual Memorial Day Observance at Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes, billed as the Southland's largest annual Memorial Day observance. The 90-minute program will begin at 10 a.m.

The keynote speaker will be retired Army Sgt. Daniel Rodriguez, who received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his actions during the Battle of Kamdesh in the Afghanistan War, then struggled with psychological problems and alcohol abuse. Rodriguez remembered a promise made to a fallen comrade to follow their dreams when they returned to America. He quit drinking alcohol, got into shape and made the Clemson University football team as a walk-on special teams player and receiver, catching 10 passes for 30 yards and a touchdown over two seasons. Rodriguez's memoir, "Rise: A Soldier, A Dream and a Promise Kept" is scheduled to be published in October. A movie based on it is set to be released in 2015.

The observance will also include fly-overs by vintage aircraft; skydivers and a parade of colors by members of the armed forces, veterans' groups, police officers and firefighters. It is also due to include musical performances by the country singer Matt Rogers, bagpipers and the Palos Verdes Symphonic Band, along with the release of 100 doves.

Several thousand people are expected at the Los Angeles National Cemetery for its Memorial Day Observance Ceremony, which will be held from 10 a.m.until noon. The speakers include 96-year-old former Army Lt. Yoshito Fujimoto who translated the World War II surrender document signed aboard the USS Missouri by Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu, chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff. Fujimoto was not allowed to be on the USS Missouri for the signing and has not been previously recognized by the U.S. military, according to organizers.

Glendale's Memorial Day Ceremony is due to begin at 9:30 a.m. at Glendale-Montrose-Crescenta Valley Veterans Memorial at 613 E. Broadway. The keynote address will be given by retired Air Force Col. Nancy J. Sumner, who focused on medical services, aeromedical evacuation, disaster response training and procurement during her 31 years with the California National Guard.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson will speak at a Memorial Day Ceremony at the Pico Rivera Library, scheduled to begin at 9:45 a.m., and at a Memorial Day Remembrance Program at 11 a.m. at Montebello Park in Montebello.

A Memorial Day Observance at the Pioneer Cemetery in Sylmar will honor five Civil War veterans buried there. Vietnam War veteran Art Guzman of Sylmar will be the guest speaker at the observance, which is due to begin at 11 a.m. Christian Rubalcava of the North Valley Military Institute will explain the meaning of Memorial Day.

A Memorial Day tribute on the lawn of Norwalk City Hall will begin at 11 a.m. The keynote speech will be delivered by retired Marine Dr. Charles Macias, co-author of the book, "Operation Legacy."

The Redondo Beach Memorial Day Service will begin at 1 p.m. at Veterans Park. Air Force Col. Donna Turner will deliver the keynote speech. A special presentation and donation to the Veterans Memorial will be made by Gilberto Hirata, the mayor of Redondo Beach's sister city, Ensenada, Mexico.

In his weekly radio address, President Barack Obama said, "I hope all Americans will take a moment this weekend to think of those who have died in service to our nation." "Say a prayer in their memories and for their families," Obama said. "Lay a flower where they've come to rest. Reach out to service members, military families or veterans in your community or families who have lost loved ones and let them know that their service will never be forgotten."

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.

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