By Mary O’KEEFE
The American Legion Post 288 and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1014 will be holding two separate events over the next two weekends.
Saturday is Armed Forces Day. The event was created in 1946 to combine the separate days previously established to honor the Army, Navy and Air Force. The single celebration recognizes those in all branches of the military who are in active service.
At one time, many communities celebrated Armed Forces Day; however, in recent years the day has had less recognition.
“It used to be that [military] bases would hold an open house [for Armed Forces Day],” said Lynn McGinnis. McGinnis has served the last two years as commander of the American Legion Post 288. He will step down and take the title of judge advocate.
“Gerry Collins is our incoming commander,” McGinnis said.
It was Collins who came up with the idea of honoring Armed Forces Day with a car show.
“[Saturday] will be our first annual car show,” Collins said. The event is co-sponsored by the American Legion and VFW.
Collins is a member of the Glendale Elks, and was a member of the Elks in Pasadena. While in those organizations he helped organize car shows that had been very successful. He thought it would be a good idea to honor the armed forces with this type of event.
“It is a car show and a military vehicle exhibition,” he said.
The Glendale Army National Guard, U.S. Marines with Humvees and even a few WWII Jeeps will be on display.
Arranging for the cars was not easy.
“We started [the organizing] with leg work, ” Collins said. “We got help from [former Assemblymember] Anthony Portantino and he [introduced] us to Retired General Tattini [from the National Guard].”
From there it was just calling and networking.
The event will begin at 10 a.m. at Crescenta Valley Park with the presentation of colors by the Crescenta Valley High School JROTC. There will also be a brief ceremony before the car exhibit. There will be a variety of vehicles on display including classic cars and hot rods in addition to the military vehicles. Included will be Collins’ 1955 Chevy Bel Air.
Next weekend is Memorial Day, the day military personnel who were killed while in service are remembered. The American Legion and VFW will hold a ceremony at Two Strike Park beginning at 8 a.m.
The veterans line flags with names of those who died while serving their country along the sidewalk leading to the Two Strike Park memorial.
The ceremony will begin with the presentation of colors, again by the CVHS JROTC, then a presentation of wreaths and flowers, the reading of the names of fallen heroes from the area and a Prisoner of War and Missing in Action ceremony.
The keynote speaker will be Lt. Col. Raffi Najarian. Najarian is a base dental surgeon with the 146th Airlift Wing in Port Hueneme. He has served in Alaska, with Operation JUMP START on the Mexican border, in the United Arab Emirates, Belize, Honduras, Ukraine and in Armenia.
“This is my 20th year with the California National Guard,” Najarian said. “I was deployed with the Air Force with the Armenian Army.”
While in Armenia he worked a disaster scenario, interfacing the U.S. military with the Armenian army, he said.
“My parents had done missionary work [in Armenia] for 30 years,” Najarian said.
His parents have inspired him to serve others. For years they worked during peacetime and war with medical relief. In fact, the U.S. State Dept. contacted his father in 1988 to help Armenia after a devastating earthquake. His mother is also involved and works with both the American and Armenian governments.
Najarian shared a story when the State Department representative was trying, without success, to contact the Armenian Minister of Health.
“Mom was in country with this [State Department representative]. She got on her cellphone and called the Minister’s wife,” Najarian said.
His mother invited the wife and the Minister to a luncheon at her hotel, and introduced the State Department representative to the Minister of Health.
“That’s my mom for you,” Najarian said.
He plans on speaking about how families are affected when a service man or woman loses their life. The family must also deal with issues when their loved one returns home from deployment.
“I have been back for 12 years and haven’t told my wife what happened there,” he said.
Najarian plans on honoring the entire military family, from those who served to those who are left behind, worrying and waiting.
Armed Forces Day tribute is on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Crescenta Valley Park, 3901 Dunsmore Ave. in La Crescenta.
Memorial Day commemoration is on May 25 beginning at 8 a.m. at Two Strike Park, 5107 Rosemont Ave. in La Crescenta.