Salute to the heroes

Hundreds gather at Pacific View Memorial Park in Corona del Mar for the annual Memorial Day observance, which is in its 52nd year.

May 31, 2010|By Tom Ragan
  • Toby Chan, a U.S. Naval Sea cadet, gives a flag to Trudy Boim and her son Scott at Pacific View Memorial Park on Monday. (Kevin Ueda)
Toby Chan, a U.S. Naval Sea cadet, gives a flag to Trudy…

It's not about barbecues and golfing and days off from work: Memorial Day is for the fallen soldiers and those who died at the expense of America's freedom.

That was the message delivered Monday by U.S. Marine Sgt. Major Michael Templeton, who lost friends in his three tours of Iraq.

In a speech at Pacific View Memorial Park in Corona del Mar, Templeton turned the holiday on its head, using his time at the lectern to express some of his dislikes and even admitting that at first he didn't even want to speak to the crowd of Newport Beach veterans.

He laid partial blame on the American school system, saying teachers, in his opinion, don't do enough to teach about its history.

He also handed out copies of various cartoons from different newspapers, in which the preoccupation of brats and beer and barbecues took precedent over the actual spirit of the holiday.


"I used to laugh in the face of death until a rifleman next to me stepped out of our vehicle in pretty intense fire and was killed," Templeton told hundreds of people who had gathered at the Garden of Valor section of the cemetery, where veterans are buried. "It was an ambush that took his life."

Templeton then went on to list the names of other fallen soldiers he knew as the crowd, many of them veterans, would erupt into intermittent applause to honor them.

And so, it may be true, that "a man never dies unless he's forgotten," an adage that was uttered by one girl who was dressed up in a red, white and blue uniform. She was part of Celebration U.S.A., part of a choir of children who sang patriotic songs and delivered their own special thanks to the five branches of the military: the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

As a northwest wind blew and all the flags were lowered to half mast, the history behind Memorial Day was read. The holiday started out as something called "Decoration Day," declared on May 5, 1868, but would take place May 30 every year.

It eventually turned into Memorial Day, celebrated on May 31.

The reason that the holiday fell at the end of May was largely because flowers are in full bloom by then and people would be able to lay them at the millions of grave sites of those who have died to protect the freedom of America — from the American Revolution to the Civil War to the "Forgotten War" of Korea to Vietnam to the present conflicts unfolding in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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