A Memorable Memorial Day In Coronado

Memorial Day
From left, Moki Martin, Emil Reutzel, Bill Lipman, Irish Flynn and Dennis McCormick, preparing to lay a wreath in honor of fallen UDT and SEAL comrades. Photos by Joe Ditler.

CORONADO STAR PARK — It only lasts an hour, the sky is usually overcast; inevitably there’s a car alarm, a barking dog or a few cell phones ringing, but it’s one of the most captivating and thought-provoking 60 minutes imaginable.

The occasion is Memorial Day, hosted by the Coronado VFW, Post 2422. Only a couple hundred people turn out, but they clamor for seating early, spill out into the streets surrounding Star Park, and then, for the next 60 minutes, all eyes are forward, and all hearts are turned to our fallen servicemen in memory, love and honor.

It’s easy to describe who spoke, and what was spoken, but more than that, it’s a feeling everyone shares as they stopped to pray and remember those fallen soldiers, sailors and airmen who were lost in the service of their country.

Every year there are former servicemen and women who were fixtures at this event over the years but are conspicuous by their absence this year. One such person is Langdon Smith, who passed earlier this year. Langdon was a much-loved and respected member of the early Underwater Demolition Team.

This year a small cadre of former UDT warriors gathered under the big tree, just off to the side of the podium and stage. They didn’t say much, but they sat united, bonded by events of the past and the legacy of UDT, watching each other’s backs just as they did in active duty. Perhaps more so this day, as the years have done more to decimate their ranks than any war ever could.

The Memorial Day tribute on Monday was about as perfect an event as one could imagine. From Boy Scout Troop 801 scrambling to set up chairs and sound specialists working to get all the microphones and speakers working; to the many veterans in attendance and the families celebrating loved ones past and present. This is the heart of Coronado – a military town – and this is the meaning of Memorial Day.

— Joe Ditler

Memorial Day


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Joe Ditler is a professional writer, publicist and Coronado historian. Formerly a writer with the Los Angeles Times, he has been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and Europe. He also owns Part-Time PR (a subsidiary of Schooner or Later Promotions), specializing in helping Coronado businesses reach larger audiences with well-placed public relations throughout the greater San Diego County. He writes obituaries and living-obituaries under the cover "Coronado Storyteller." To find out more, write or call joeditler@gmail.com, or (619) 435-0767.