Paying Respects on Memorial Day
When I finished my program on KFWB this morning, I got right in my car and took advantage of the “holiday light” traffic to get home in time to clean up and hurry over to the City of Cerritos Memorial Day Program at the Cerritos Veterans Memorial at the Civic Center.
I arrived in time to see the welcome remarks from Cerritos Mayor, and Vietnam Veteran, Jim Edwards. In attendance were veterans, active duty Marine Corps members from the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion/Camp Pendleton, Firefighters from Fire Stations #30 and #35, L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputies, Boy and Girl Scouts, friends, family and officials from local, state and federal government.
Memorial Day Ceremony Begins
After a stirring invocation from the Superintendent of Valley Christian High School and decorated Navy veteran, Richard Suttie, it was time for some song. Crystal Cooper, accompanied by the Cerritos College band, sang “God Bless America.” The USMC Color Guard presented our nation’s colors, and we were led in the Pledge of allegiance by Romeo Ricarte, the President of the Southern California Philippines-US Veterans Association. Everyone remained standing as Crystal Cooper returned to sing the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Cerritos Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Barrows was invited to the podium to introduce the special guests in attendance, including Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe, City Council members Carol Chen, Joseph Cho and Mark Pulido.
Memorial Day Appreciation
Next up, the Cerritos Quilters presented a special quilt to US Army Infantryman Ryan Ward. A graduate of Cerritos High School, Ward was injured in action in Afghanistan. Now for the moving words of a mother who lost her son to war, but gained a new resolve in life. Mary Tallouzi is a spokesperson for Wounded Warrior Project. She spoke about her son, Staff Sergeant Daniel Tallouzi, who was shot in the head during combat. She detailed the anguish a mother goes through from first being informed of the injury, and how the days of hope eventually turn to the sorrow of loss. In a poignant moment, and I paraphrase, Tallouzi said, People say soldiers lose their lives in battle. I say they give them. It was a moving moment to see how this strong woman, who has lost a son, has gained a laser focus on life’s duty, and how the memory of her son guides her to urge people to pay attention to the needs of Wounded Warriors everywhere.
If that wasn’t moving enough, the next moment brought many in the audience, including myself, to tears. Marines from the 1st CEB presented the “Battlefield Cross” in honor of 1st CEB member, Coporal Alex Martinez, who was recently killed in the line of duty. Corporal Martinez was on his second deployment to Afghanistan, fighting the war on terror during Operation Enduring Freedom. He was killed in close combat in Helmand Province. Corporal Martinez’s wife, Julianna was on hand to witness the ceremony. Mayor Edwards extended the City’s deepest sympathies and the promise that we will never forget her husband’s sacrifice.
I’ve never seen the Battlefield Cross presentation before. I’ll describe this one to you: One by one, three Marines approached a wooden supply box which sat in front of a memorial photo of Corporal Martinez. The first Marine slowly marched over, holding a rifle, presumably belonging to Martinez. He stuck the bayonet end into the box so the rifle stood vertical. The Marine took to one knee in solemn contemplation, then marched away. He was followed by a second Marine who brought a helmet. He placed the helmet on the butt end of the rifle stock, and after a moment of contemplation, he marched away. A third Marine approached with a pair of boots. He carefully tied the boots to the barrel of the rifle, knelt, and marched away. Julianna was then escorted to the cross to lay flowers.
Several elaborate wreathes were then placed at the Cerritos Veterans Memorial by veterans and family members of the fallen. Also included in the wreath-laying ceremony, was the family of a soldier who was recognized last year, fallen hometown hero, Lieutenant Colonel Mario Carazo.
Memorial Day Salute
To cap off the ceremony, the Marines from the 1st CEB performed a three volley salute, which is traditionally performed at military and police funerals as part of the drill and ceremony of the Honor Guard. The Marines rifle party fired blank cartridges into the air three times. What followed was a performance of “Taps” by young trumpet player and Boy Scout, Mitchell Bettencourt. His father, David is the conductor of the Cerritos College Band, and Mitchell’s notes were “echoed” by a trumpet player in the band.
I am glad I made it to the ceremony. I, like I am sure many in the audience, gained a renewed appreciation for the sacrifice so many men and women voluntarily make every day to protect the freedoms of people they will likely never meet.
Watch a slide show of the photo I took during the ceremony, below (click the photos to move the slide show along faster):