Memorial Day at Forest Lawn

Photos by Charly SHELTON A field of flags adorned the landscape of Forest Lawn Glendale as part of the Memorial Day observance.

Memorial Day was observed at local events including a first-of-its-kind display of flags at Forest Lawn.


Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in 1868. Three years after the end of the Civil War, General John Logan dedicated the 30th of May as a day to decorate the graves of the fallen soldiers of the Civil War “whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he said. Decoration Day was a way to not only remember the fallen but to also come together as grieving Americans, no matter the side you were on. Many of the battlefield burial sites interred both Union and Confederate troops together in mass graves, and so brought grieving families from the North and South on pilgrimage to decorate the field where their sons, husbands, fathers and brothers had died. Now in its 149th year, Decoration Day has evolved into Memorial Day to honor all those who gave their last in every conflict America has taken part in.

And since 1915, the 50th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale has held a Decoration Day/Memorial Day ceremony. This was the 102nd year, and was a beautiful event with musicians, cannon fire and even a Civil War Infantry reenactment.

“Those we honor today were ordinary men and women compelled by love of liberty and country to serve. They were ordinary men and women who acted in extraordinary ways with selfless service, honor, integrity and courage. Ordinary women and men who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said David Macdonald, vice president of Forest Lawn Glendale. “We are gathered here today to honor those who gave their lives on the altar of freedom. Those who fought, those who died and those who stand ready today to do the very same thing whenever the defense of freedom and democracy demands it.”

The Field of Honor and Gratitude was displayed across the front lawn at Forest Lawn, featuring one thousand flags lined up in rows. Each flag was given a number and, for a donation, the specific flags could be dedicated to a loved one, usually a veteran, in their honor or memory. The Sunrise Rotary Club of Glendale sponsored the event and managed the donations, with proceeds to go to veterans’ initiatives within the city of Glendale. CV Weekly was proud to dedicate one of the flags to veterans and the fallen across the country.

Performing the duties of color guard for the memorial was the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Company K Civil War Reenactors who carried their regiment’s flag into the ceremony, marching in time with the playing of the Scottish Pipes and Drums corps who led them in. Being that it is a holiday originating in the Civil War, the ceremony was held near the tomb of Elliott M. Best, Union soldier of the 16th Regiment, Regular Army, who survived the war and later became a traveling salesman. He was buried in the old cemetery section of Forest Lawn and served as the focal point for the wreath laying and commemoration.

“You are the sons and daughters, the inheritors of a tragic peace. You gather here by the grave of a man you never knew in memorial of a moment most of you couldn’t possibly imagine. Some of us have seen such moments and, no matter where they fall on the arc of history, we value them as if they were our own,” said Scott Lowe of the 100th Pennsylvania, in his address “Musings of a Civil War Soldier.”

Lowe tried to explain how a fallen Civil War soldier from the battle of Antietam might feel after his death, being buried anonymously in a mass grave on the battlefield where he gave his life, hoping that his ultimate sacrifice will be remembered and that he made a difference. Lowe ended his speech with President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, in which Lincoln remarks, as he dedicates the cemetery on the battlefield at Gettysburg like the one Lowe mentions in Sharpsburg, that nothing we living people can do or say will mean more than what these honored dead have already done. And his words ring through the ages to every veterans’ memorial held today.

“But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here,” Lincoln said.