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Annual Memorial Day Ceremony At Veterans Park Is Well Attended

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Posted: Friday, May 31, 2019 11:52 am

Families and people of all ages attended the Memorial Day Ceremony last Monday, May 27, held at Veterans Park. Attendees brought chairs, found a seat or were standing while waiting for the ceremony to begin and listened as the Mar Vista High School (MVHS) band warmed up. The atmosphere was somber and reverent but people who knew each other stopped to say hello.

The ceremony began with the Mar Vista NJROTC presenting the colors followed by the National Anthem played by the MVHS band, and the Pledge of Allegiance. Presiding Officer Chris Chapman was the master of ceremony and introduced Mayor Serge Dedina who reminded the group the reason for the gathering. “We’re here to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

Dedina also reminded the attendees of the many losses suffered by the U.S. during wars including the staggering number of 405,000 during World War II. He also spoke of a scientist at Scripps who came up with the first model of surf casting to help with the D-Day Landing in Normandy making it safer and “saving thousands of lives.”

Capt. Randy Garner (ret.), an Imperial Beach resident, was the guest speaker. He told the story of the submarine USS Tang which during World War II sank 33 ships and whose leader, Commander Richard O’Kane, received the Medal of Honor. The submarine had a crew of 86 and kept very busy. On the first patrol alone, the submarine used 24 torpedos. The USS Tang had a short but successful career and was sank by her own torpedo which made a circular run. Of the total crew, 78 died when it sank and the nine who survived were taken prisoners by the Japanese.

During its patrols, the USS Tang was given what they called “lifeguard duty” rescuing aviators who had ejected from their planes and were in the water. Garner’s grandfather Harry Hill was one of the aviators rescued on one of those on lifeguard duty that day. “If it wasn’t for those 87 people in the submarine I would not exist. The connection to my family is different than statistics. Seventy-eight men gave their life for my mother and me to have existed. Any one of those 22 aviators [rescued] had a family and stories just like mine… Remember that Memorial Day is about people that did not return,” he said.

A new part of the service this year was the “Empty Chair” in honor of POWs. A table with a setting for one with a white table cloth has a special meaning. “The empty chair depicts an unknown face, representing no specific Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine, but all who are not here with us. The table itself is round to show that our concern for them is never ending.The Bible represents faith in a higher power and the pledge to our country, founded as one nation under God.The black napkin stands for the emptiness these warriors have left in the hearts of their families and friends. A Purple Heart medal can be pinned to the napkin.The single red rose reminds us of their families and loved ones. The red ribbon represents the love of our country, which inspired them to answer the nation’s call. The yellow candle and its yellow ribbon symbolize the everlasting hope for a joyous reunion with those yet accounted for.The slices of lemon on the bread plate remind us of their bitter fate.The salt upon the bread plate represents the tears of their families.The wine glass, turned upside down, reminds us that our distinguished comrades cannot be with us to drink a toast or join in the festivities of the evening.”

Residents presented flowers which were placed on a table in memory of loved ones. Resident and VFW Ladies Auxiliary member Lori Hottel was one of them. She brought flowers in memory of her husband John, for veteran Bill Landry and those who have given their lives.

Another resident and Military Chair for the IB Woman’s Club Josie Hamada brought flowers for her dad who fought in the Philippines in World War II and her stepdad who took part in D-Day. Hamada, who comes to the ceremony every year, was pleased to see so many attend this year, especially families. “It’s wonderful. It’s the only way to honor whose who have fallen. This event has grown,” she said.

Names of service members from Imperial Beach who passed away were read including William “Bill” Landry who chaired the Memorial Day Ceremony for the past 51 years. Because of Landry’s recent passing Anna Cox has taken the reins and is now the chairman of the event. The ceremony was co-sponsored by the city, the locals FRA, VFW and American Legion and their auxiliaries. Many local organizations also participated.

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