On a gorgeous Ventura Memorial Day, more than a thousand locals gathered to honor the nation’s fallen at Ivy Lawn Cemetery. Master of Ceremonies Tim Gallagher introduced Assemblymember Jeff Gorell who gave the keynote address. “I’m no war hero,” he declared, “but I’ve met and served with many of them.” Gorell, who recently completed his second Afghanistan tour of duty as a Naval Reserve officer, cited the stories of the 27 Ventura County heroes who’ve lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. “They gave up their tomorrow’s so we could have today,” he declared. Gorell is the third generation in his family to wear a Navy uniform, marking 75 years of shared service to our country.
Dozens of local military and service clubs delivered ceremonial wreaths during the moving tribute narrated by Channel 3′s . A lone bugler played “Taps” and bagpipes marched in with a stirring rendition of “Amazing Grace.” At noon, by national tradition, the flags of the United States and its six service branches (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine) were raised from half staff to fly proudly in the brilliant sunshine.
Mayor Mike Tracy attended, along with Councilmembers Jim Monahan and Neal Andrews. Monahan, a Korean War vet himself, has long been involved in veteran support and patriotic efforts. He spearheaded, as usual, the annual installation this morning of American flags along the pier and promenade that will fly this summer.
As the crowd dispersed, many to linger near the graves of loved ones, I found myself walking back with an elderly gentleman who was also alone. I greeted him with best wishes for Memorial Day, only to notice as we spoke that his hat indicated he’d flown B-17s. My dad, who flew 27 combat missions from Italy, was a B-17 pilot. He was buried just two weeks ago with a military funeral honoring his service. My new friend flew 35 missions over France and Germany from a base outside London, England. He showed me a photo of his plane and pointed out the tall, lanky pilot. “I was the flight engineer, the youngest member of the crew. That was 68 years ago!” he told me. It seems he enlisted in Taft, California. While he was overseas, his family moved to Ventura and Murrel Binkley’s lived here ever since returning from the war.
On a day when most Americans celebrate our freedoms with a holiday at the beach or around the barbeque, I was glad to have shared a moment with one of my dad’s contemporaries, one of “the Greatest Generation” who did so much to build the nation we enjoy today. Like so many other veterans down through to those serving today, he treasures the memories of those he served with. Nearly seven decades later, he doesn’t forget and neither should we.