Inaugural Memorial Day Service Held at Veterans Gardens

A parade started on La Cruz Drive and went to the Palisades Recreation Center.

The first annual Memorial Day Service and picnic, organized by the Sons of the American Legion Post 283 was held today, May 27, around noon.

Flags lined La Cruz Drive and Alma Real, the route that servicemen, veterans and community members walked to the Rec Center, led by bagpipe player William Walker. The UCLA ROTC Color Guard was at the front of the procession.

Before walking to the Rec Center, the names of the 13 U.S. service men and women — 11 Marines, a Soldier, and a Sailor, who were killed in a suicide bombing at the Abbey Gate outside Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport during the operation’s closing days were read (below). Post 283 Veterans carried a large flag in honor of everyone who had been killed.

The vets were followed by about 50 Navy members, who had been invited to the event and were in town for Fleet Week.

Patriotic bunting lined the fences of the Palisades Recreation Center lawn, Veterans Gardens and the bocce courts.

Dr. S.T. Williams, Jr., the Post 283 Chaplin and a former Navy Lieutenant Commander gave the benediction, “We pray for those who are preparing to serve our nation and the sacrifice that goes with it.”

As veterans, “our commitment is to the constitution,” Williams said. “Today is about the reflection to the purpose and the meaning of life.”

Joe Ramierz, who is the incoming commander for the American Legion, said that for “God and Country has gotten confusing over the past few years.”

But that this encompasses 1) God for comfort and solace, 2) acknowledgment of sacrifice, 3) unity and community, 4) beginning a tradition, 5) moral and ethical reflection, 6) guidance and strength, and 7) individual purpose.

Speaking at the ceremony were Jay McCann (left) and American Legion Commander Jim Cragg.

Commander Jim Cragg said that this day is personal for him. He remembers the people who did not come home. “When Memorial Day comes around, I take a couple of moments for myself.” He said he remembers comrades Odie, Rocko and Chris. “I remember them for what they gave up.”

He also remembered another serviceman, “he saved my life, but I was not there to save his.

“There are those still ready to make the sacrifice. God bless you all,” Cragg said.

Jimmy Dunne thanked the American Legion for stepping up to create Veterans Gardens and the bocce courts.

In introducing Councilmember Traci Park, Craig said, that she exemplifies the Legion with her “service to the community.”

He added “The lady has gone above others [in the city].” The Legion is apolitical, and Craig said, “We can’t endorse her, but we sure can appreciate a good official.”

Councilmember Traci Park spoke at the ceremony.

Park said “We have a shared commitment to service, but what I do pales to those of you in active service.

“On Memorial Day, we take a moment to reflect on the men and women who died in service.

“Today isn’t about BBQs and a cold beer in the afternoon,” Park said. “Rather it’s about reflection.”

Park said her dad was an Army Vet. He died in 2005 and was buried on Memorial Day.

“To all our active service people, thank you. We appreciate you and all you do for our country,” Park said.

Jay McCann, WestPoint 1961, and an active member of Post 283, said that Memorial Day has its origins with the Civil War.

Gettysburg was considered the Civil War’s bloodiest battle that was fought July 1 to 3, 1863. More than 51,000 casualties occurred.

William Vari recited Lincoln’s words from memory.

On November 19, 1863, Edward Everett, one of the nation’s great orators gave a speech that lasted more than two hours at Gettysburg. It was well received.

He was followed by President Abraham Lincoln, whose speech The Gettysburg Address lasted three minutes and is the speech everyone remembers. At this ceremony, Fourth Grader William Vari recited Lincoln’s speech from memory.

On May 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.

Hank Elder organized the event.

The inaugural Memorial Day Parade/Ceremony and luncheon was a successful event and afterwards, organizer Hank Elder was asked about planning it.

“It was really three different things,” he said. First, he had to plan the parade, and get the appropriate street closure and “No Parking” signs from the City. Second, he had to work out the ceremony and the speakers, and finally, he had to plan the picnic.

“Having never done this before, I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” Elder said. “Everyone rallied and did a beautiful job.”

Absent were Recreation and Parks staff members.


Sailors who were in town for Fleet Week, came by bus to Pacific Palisades to participate in the inaugural Memorial Day Observance.



An attack at the Hamid Karzai International Airport Kabul, Afghanistan, killed 13 U.S. service members supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. They were helping people evacuate from the country when the attack happened.

Eleven Marines, one Navy corpsman and one soldier were “killed as the result of an enemy attack while supporting non-combatant operations,” according to a press release from the Department of Defense

Eleven Marines:

  • Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts, assigned to 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Naval Support Activity Bahrain.
  • Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California, assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
  • Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah. His military occupational specialty was 0369, infantry unit leader.
  • Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California, a rifleman.
  • Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska, a rifleman.
  • Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana, a rifleman.
  • Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas, a rifleman.
  • Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz,20, of St. Charles, Missouri, a rifleman.
  • Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum,20, of Jackson, Wyoming, a rifleman.
  • Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola,20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California, a rifleman.
  • Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui,20, of Norco, California.


  • Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss,23, of Corryton, Tennessee. Knauss was assigned to 9th PSYOP Battalion, 8th PSYOP Group, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.


  • Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio, assigned to 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, California.

About 170 Afghan civilians also died in that August 2021 attack.

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6 Responses to Inaugural Memorial Day Service Held at Veterans Gardens

  1. Patricia Borgeson says:

    Great article. Thank you

  2. Gabor Vari says:

    Thank you for the story Sue. My sons correct name is William Vari. Can you please correct it in the story and caption? Thank you very much!

  3. M says:

    What a wonderful tribute. The American Legion Post 283 should be very proud for creating this special event on Memorial Day, for those who have given so much.

  4. Krishna Thangavelu says:

    In the midst of our ongoing concerns and necessary battles … what is life but a series on endless challenges and puzzles to be solved … our souls must rest somewhere.

    There is great beauty and joy in a thoughtful ceremony within a community. Hence the heartfelt resonance we feel in processions and parades and graduations and remembrances.

    The Pacific Palosades American Legion Post started a new tradition this year. It takes thoughtful creativity and huge commitment to “start a tradition”.

    In the midst of the pace of the modern world, a new ritual and tradition is a beautiful effort! Our souls need beauty and effort.

    This was a beautiful event .. thank you Post 283.

  5. Kathleen Jensen says:

    It was a very nice event with music & inspiring speeches. Congressman Brad Sherman’s rep presented a flag flown over the capitol but unfortunately power to the microphone speakers was cut off before the ceremony ended so only a few people standing in line for food could hear the flag presentation.

  6. Hank Elders passion and diligence with Jay McCanns wisdom and charge created this incredible event. Sorry to have missed it, but your reporting and Richs photos do it justice. A huge THANK YOU to the community who supported this event and to the warriors we are honoring on Memorial Day!

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