Rain or shine, Desert Lawn Memorial Park in Calimesa hosts its annual Memorial Day event to honor fallen soldiers and current military service members. Yet the recent rainy spell cleared away on Memorial Day, May 27, as residents of Yucaipa and Calimesa gathered in the somber setting of the memorial park, seated outdoors among graves of the fallen. The theme of this year’s ceremony was “The Greatest Generation,” in honor of World War II veterans.
Yucaipa City Councilmember and WWII veteran Dick Riddell served as Master of Ceremony. The national anthem and “God Bless America” were sung by Brittany Fisheli. Chris Daub sang “America the Beautiful,” and Rick Zamora performed “God Bless the USA.” Guest speakers were Calimesa Mayor Pro Tem Linda Molina and Yucaipa Mayor Bobby Duncan, and the keynote speaker was Navy veteran Lisa Roybal.
Duncan thanked attendees for braving the unpredictable weather to attend the memorial.
“It’s sad that some people are down at the river water skiing and drinking beer, taking advantage of the liberty we have,” Duncan said.
In her keynote address, Roybal brought attention to an often underappreciated military demographic: women in uniform. She hopes to make veteran status more culturally inclusive for women. Roybal noted that 350,000 women served in the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII, as President Dwight D. Eisenhower felt he could not win the war without their assistance. Women flew aircraft, served in clerical positions, and were sometimes killed in the line of duty as nurses. Yet they continue to be the unsung heroes of WWII and the U.S. Armed Forces to this day.
Roybal challenged listeners to “rethink veteran.” She said, “When we think veteran, we usually think of men, but they’re often women, even more so now.”
According to Roybal, there are 2.2 million female veterans in the United States, though they might be unaware of the VA health benefits they are eligible to receive.
“Women often don’t see themselves as having VA status,” said Roybal. However, like male veterans, many female veterans struggle with homelessness, often with children, and of course mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Following Roybal’s speech, Riddell led a military medley to honor members of each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. Service members stood as their respective theme songs played for each branch of the military. Flags representing the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard were also displayed. The roll call of the dead followed the medley, and a bell was rung after the name of each fallen veteran was called.
Local veterans who passed away in 2017-2018 include: Larry Lavant Bonine, Robert Brannon, James Everett Brown, Richard Cox, Marvin A. Dalluge, Ronald Weldon Davidson Sr., John Edwards, Tevis Foster, Walter Gnehm, Richard Hanna, Dale Hudec, George Leja, Merlin Luce, Lynn Joseph Marcroft, Richard Paul Miller, Robert Miller, William Joel Murray, William Kent Powers, William Lester Pressey, Samuel Thelan Rice, William Edwards Roberts, Herbert Herman Ross, Edward John Sarvis, Caleb Vincent Swanson, Wayne Alton Sykes, Ralph Manzo Trejo, Mark Louis Valdez, Raymond Paul Whitt.
In closing, Deacon Peter Bond said a prayer to bless attendees and honor the veterans who have served their country.
Guests enjoyed a complimentary lunch, courtesy of Desert Lawn Memorial Park, local Lions Club’s and Bob’s Big Boy.