Posted 5/30/19 – Sierra Madre’s Lt. Kenneth Bell VFW Post 3208 held its annual Memorial Day Monday at Pioneer Cemetery. Post Commander Cindy Ohara greeted the guests in attendance, and introduced Rev. Thomas Baker, who gave the invocation. The crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance and, led by Paul Puccinelli, sang the national anthem.
The program featured 3 speakers, Congresswoman Judy Chu, Assemblyman Chris Holden, and Commander Ohara. Congresswoman Chu remembered her WWII veteran father, and “all those who came before and after him who put their country first.” She mentioned recent legislation that reversed a tax law that increased taxes on “Gold Star” surviving children from 15% to 37%. She received a round of applause when she announced the opening last week of a VA healthcare clinic in Arcadia to serve the San Gabriel Valley, which has been lacking a VA facility. This clinic will be a temporary fix until the VA establishes a larger, permanent full service clinic here in the SGV in the next 3 to 5 years. She thanked the VFW for their support and advocacy over the last 7 years as she worked toward bringing these facilities to the region, and that is why she has named the Post her “Non-Profit” of the year.
In addition to the honor for the Post as a whole, Congresswoman Chu presented certificates of Congressional recognition to Post members Rev. Baker, WWII tailgunner Ken Anhalt, Bud Switzer, who served in the Korean War, Stanley Pinta who served in Vietnam, and former Post commander David Loera.
Assembly member Holden spoke next and also thanked the Post for bringing the community together each year to “…pay remembrance to those who laid their lives on the line and did not come home, but were on the battle fields in foreign lands fighting for our freedom and to preserve our freedom and to preserve democracy around the world. He thanked Congresswoman Chu for her “steadfastness and hard work to bring a very important service to our veterans in the San Gabriel Valley.” He spoke of his father, former State Senator and long-time LA City Council member Nate Holden, who lied about his age to enlist to serve as a military policeman in Italy during WWII, and a 100-year old uncle who served and how lucky he is that they are still hear today.
Commander Ohara spoke following Assembly member Holden. She referenced the famous General George Patton quote, that “it is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived,” noting that “…They sacrificed everything for the noblest of causes, and it is up to you and me to carry their memory forward in an effort to repay a debt that can never truly be repaid…What we really must do to honor their sacrifice, is to live what they died for, live the America they died for, a country of freedom, equality, opportunity and unlimited promises…They gave up their todays for our tomorrows.”
She then paused to remember the lone VFW member that passed away since last year’s ceremony, WWII veteran Art Contreras.
Following the speakers, members of the Post participated in the traditional laying of the wreaths, with Paul Puccinelli leading the crowd in “God Bless America” and performing Taps.
Following the ceremony, the Post provided a free lunch to the crowd from Bean Town.