Thursday, June 13, 2024

Memorial Day Services Best Ever, Double Last Year’s Crowd

World War II Marine and Guadalcanal veteran Walt Travis (left) takes a moment to shake hands with young Scott Jennings (right) after the Memorial Day Service Monday, May 27, held at Star Park. Photo by Joan C. Fahrenthold.

Maybe it’s the current, chaotic state of our country, maybe it’s that most of us are just plain tired of the politics and party battles — of the seemingly endless challenges to our Constitution.

Whatever the reason, Memorial Day services in Star Park Monday seems to have shocked people back to reality – to a place where we stop all the arguing, all the excuse making, and focus on those who served their country but didn’t come home.

This year’s Memorial Day service was attended by nearly 2,000 people. That’s twice as many as last year.

Where we had no TV camera teams show up last year, no fewer than five TV stations showed up and covered Coronado’s Memorial Day services this year. And, truly, this service, and others like it being held across the country, may be just what this country needs.

Carol & Steve Garan become emotional while singing the National Anthem during the Memorial Day Service held Monday at Star Park. Photo by Joan C. Fahrenthold.

Everywhere you turned there were people wearing Buddy Poppies, holding small American flags, holding each other. People cried openly during the reading of the 23rd Psalm and the singing of God Bless America.

And, of course the placing of memorials at the memorial stone by local families was heart rendering. You could have heard a pin drop. Everyone in attendance felt the pain and grief attached to each and every one of those memorial wreaths, whether it was for fallen SEALs in recent months, or casualties from the Vietnam War.

Gold Star wife Mikale Chambers (left) and daughter Kennedy Chambers honored Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers as they lay flowers during Tribute to Fallen Soldiers at the Memorial Day Service held Monday, May 27 at Star Park. Photo by Joan C. Fahrenthold.

The guest speaker this year was Vice Admiral Dan Cheever, USN. He is a Top Gun graduate, and currently serving as Commander, Naval Air Forces and Commander, Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet.

“So many have given so much,” said Cheever, “but those we remember today gave it all for their country. As FDR said, ‘Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy, forget in time that men have died to win them.’”

After the event a TV crew wandered through the audience seeking sound bites. One crew singled out long-time Coronado resident, Terry Bucklew.

Terry served in the US Army in Vietnam, 1968-1970. He was a communications and security specialist, conducting missions throughout Chu Lia.

While Terry is not one to be open about his experience in Nam, on this day he removed his sunglasses and prepared to speak with the TV cameraman. Unexpectedly, a woman walked out of the crowd and up to Terry.

“Excuse me, sir. I just want to shake your hand and say thank you for your service.”

It came as a surprise to Terry and those standing near him. He looked down at the ground, then slowly raised his head, extended his bear-like hand, and thanked the young woman for her words. Yes, there were many tears today at Coronado’s Star Park.

Video compilation by Tony Perri, Coronado Beach Company:


Joe Ditler
Joe Ditler
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 [email protected], or (619) 742-1034.

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