South Pasadena residents came out Monday to honor those who valiantly have given their lives for this nation’s freedom during the Memorial Day ceremony at the most befitting place to hold such an austere event, the War Memorial building on Fair Oaks Avenue.
The morning affair saw scores of residents honor the fallen along with local elected officials including Rep. Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park; Assemblymember Chris Holden, D-Pasadena; So Pas Mayor Dr. Marina Khubesrian and Mayor Pro Tem Robert Joe. Also in attendance was So Pas Fire Chief Paul Riddle and newly anointed So Pas Police Chief Joe Ortiz, among many others.
“This is a very important day to remember those who sacrificed themselves for our country,” Chu said just prior to the ceremony. “It’s important that we make sure that we remember this day and every day.”
Chu also said she was grateful for these events, her father having served in the military, and the memorial gives her the opportunity to say, “thank you.”
“Actually, I attend all these events year after year but am actually impressed by how much people appreciate our veterans and appreciate those who have sacrificed their lives for us. Especially, we have to do this now for our WW II veterans. I’ve been to a lot of events the last two days and they are getting really elderly. It’s especially important right now. I think people realize that because I see more tributes to our World War II veterans.”
Khubesrian echoed those comments, saying these ceremonies are vital until people can figure out a way to stop having wars.
“We are her today to recognize, remember and honor service men and women who lost their lives through the ultimate sacrifice in all past wars and to envision a better future,” she said. “I think these ceremonies are important. They happen every year and unless we totally get to a point where we can end war completely, then maybe at that point, we won’t need to have these kinds of memorials, but it’s really important to honor the sacrifices because it is the ultimate sacrifice of a precious life in the service of our country.”
The new So Pas Police Chief Joe Ortiz said the memorial is especially important. He was circumspect in his comments. He said it was an emotional day for him.
“This is very important,” Ortiz said. “As a veteran this hits very close to home. Oftentimes we forget about our freedom and this is a reminder for those who gave their lives for us.” Ortiz was in the Air Force in the mid-1980s, he said.
Fire Chief Paul Riddle did not serve in the military, but said his family did and he honors his father, who was in the Marines.
“I’m here, as always, because we get to pay tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy the freedom that we have today,” Riddle said. “My dad was a combat Marine veteran prior to spending 30 years as a firefighter for the city of Pasadena. I think these ceremonies are as important as ever. This is something that as a nation, the more we take time, collectively, to come together and put our differences aside, and remember those that gave the ultimate sacrifice, it benefits all of us.”
Holden agreed with all the sentiments and summarized the memorial as an event that salutes the “bravest of the brave.”
“This is for those that fought for our liberty and also for the liberty of those around the world,” Holden said. “ I am happy to be here to join this solemn occasion and we have to keep them in our hearts.”
One So Pas veteran, Werner Hintzen, said the memorial is important not only for those that paid the ultimate sacrifice but for those that came back alive.
“People sometimes don’t understand the combat veteran and what he went through,” Hintzen said, who was a Navy combat vet of the Korean War. “When you are on a ship in a compartment with 80 guys, it can be rough. Not much privacy and then combat. It can be very difficult but these ceremonies help. They really do.”
The event was highlighted by the South Pasadena Boy Scout Troop #333, which presented the color guard and led the attendees in the pledge of allegiance. The keynote speaker was Phlunté Riddle, Psy.D and music was provided by the South Pasadena Brass Band.
After the initial ceremony, Khubesrian encouraged everyone to stay because she was going to have a drum circle, yoga and meditation. She said it was the first time those three elements had been done at the memorial.
“It’s important,” she told the gathered crowd. “It’s a way to bring us together.” A small contingent did stay afterward, including firefighters and police.