By Mary O’KEEFE
Memorial Day is Monday. But before the picnic baskets are packed and the barbecues are fired up it is important to take some time to remember what the day is really about.
“It is a time to remember,” said Ken Jury.
Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service to our nation. There are various stories as to where and how Memorial Day began in the United States. Some trace it back to the early years of the Civil War but it was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan and was first observed on May 30, 1868, according to www.usmemorialday.org.
There will be observances in La Crescenta, Montrose and Glendale as well as cities and towns throughout the country. Veterans will gather at Two Strike Park to read the names of fallen military men and women. This ceremony includes veterans speaking about what the day means to them.
Veterans – those who returned from service years ago, those who have just recently returned and those who have decided to enter the military – will join family, friends and the community in events.
La Crescenta resident Steve Thiboult joined the U.S. Marine Corps. in 2006. He returned from a tour in December 2009.
“I joined right after high school,” Thiboult said. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do as an adult. I knew I wanted to travel and do my part for the country.”
He talked to a U.S. Marine Corps recruiter and decided to join. He said bootcamp prepared him for what he was to face in Afghanistan.
“They prepare you for service,” Jury said.
Jury served in the Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was shipped to the waters between Cuba and Florida and waited.
“We were worried about what was going to happen,” he added.
He along with veteran Mike Baldwin said that bootcamp prepares you for whatever you have to face from a stand off in the 1960s between the Soviet Union and United States to fighting terrorism around the world including Afghanistan.
The veterans interviewed for this article all agreed that bootcamp was not easy but was necessary.
Josh Lacey, a senior at Crescenta Valley High School, understands the physical demands of joining the military. Lacey is enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps and has been working with a recruiter for about a year.
“I joined PT [personal training] with the Marines to get in shape before bootcamp,” Lacey said.
Part of the training includes exercises and hiking – lots of hiking with heavy packs.
When asked if it was difficult and he ever wanted to quit he said, “Oh yeah, I wanted to quit.”
After talking to several former and active Marines he has decided to go to college to get his general education over and enter the service at a higher rank. He will continue to work with recruiters throughout his time in college.
Lacey and Thiboult had similar reasons for joining the military.
“I have always been very physical. I played football since I was young and like working out. I didn’t want to do anything ordinary.”
He joined the Marines because he said it fit him.
“I don’t know. I liked ‘The Few. The Proud. The Marines slogan and I want to serve my country. I like knowing that everyone is safe because of what I will do in the Marines.”
He has had a difficult time convincing his parents of his decision.
“My dad is really supportive now,” he said.
His mother is worried. Lacey warned his mother of his decision then brought his recruiter home to help answer any questions.
“She is still upset,” he said.
Convincing Mom is what Stephen Beck, a senior at CVHS, has been working on since he decided to join the U.S. Air Force.
“Dad is really supportive, Mother not so much,” he said. “She was in the Army and is worried.”
He chose the Air Force because of its strong technology base.
“I want to go into computer programming or intelligence in the Air Force,” Beck said.
Serving his country through technology was a factor in his decision to join the military. The idea of traveling was also a factor in his decision to join but it was the technological side of the military that played the biggest role in his decision to sign up for the Air Force.
“They have the latest and greatest technology,” he said.
He has already taken several aptitude tests and is awaiting those results.
“I don’t know when I will go to bootcamp. They have not given me a date, hopefully within the next two or three weeks,” Beck said.
Thiboult advises those who are now joining the armed services to understand what they are joining.
“They should really understand what they are going to be doing when they join and to understand the culture of where they [may be deployed]. Because it is going to be different,” Thiboult said.
Those who have served and are preparing to serve understand the sacrifice those that have gone before them have made.
Lacey said that going through PT, working with his recruiter and making that decision to join the Marines has affected how he views Memorial Day.
“It gives me a greater respect and understanding of what [those who have died while serving in the military] of done for me,” he said. “I appreciate not only those who have served in the Marines but in every branch of the service.”
Memorial Day will be recognized at Two Strike Park beginning at 8 a.m. There will be a reading of names of those in the area who have died while in service to their country. A Walk of Honor will have names displayed on banners of military personnel who live in the community and those that live outside it. Residents have submitted the names for recognition. The keynote speaker will be veteran Ken Jury and there will be a floral presentation.
There will also be a Memorial Day remembrance at the Vietnam Memorial in the Montrose Shopping Park. The event begins at 7:30 a.m. Fourteen names that are on the memorial wall will be called out, each accompanied by the ringing of a bell. The Montrose Vietnam Memorial wall was the first to honor those who served in Vietnam. After some research it was found that five names of locals who died during the Vietnam era were not listed on the wall. A special presentation and recognition will be made for those five missing soldiers. Several dignitaries will speak at the event including Los Angeles Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Glendale Mayor Laura Friedman and Crescenta Valley Town Council President Cheryl Davis.
Glendale will be holding a Memorial Day event beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial, 613 E. Broadway Ave.