MEMORIAL DAY SERVICE IN LIBBEY PARK Monday May 30, 2011, by Sally Rice
The gazebo in Libbey Park provided the stage for Monday’s Memorial Day Service dedicated to our community’s fallen heros who passed away in 2010 -2011. Dozens of supportive citizens sat on folding chairs in the shade of Oak trees to listen to speeches given by veterans of foreign wars and one father, Shawn Brown, whose son Mathew is still serving in Afghanistan.
The service, which began at 11:30 a.m., opened with a Color Guard ceremony, followed by an invocation led by Pastor John Robison of the Ojai Valley Methodist Church, who graciously honored both active and veteran soldiers and the families left behind in a heartwarming ceremony that lasted just over an hour.
Korean War Veteran Dave Pressey followed Robison with a history lesson of equipment and weaponry used during the war, with props on hand, including helmets, riffles, against a backdrop of stories illustrating infantry detail.
In between speeches, Smitty West & The All American Band performed classic tunes celebrating our nation’s pride, accompanied by vocalist Julija Zonic, a new American citizen who was granted citizenship in February.
Veterans recalled tales of combat, spanning WWII, the Korean War, and Viet Nam. Air Force Viet Nam vet Julio Contreas shared his heartbreaking story of his three brothers who were killed in combat, leaving him the sole survivor among his siblings.
Jack Shultz, volunteer veteran of WWII who served from 1943-1946, shared stories of his duties as a medical clerk (largely due to his typing skills) who worked in makeshift hospital “emergency rooms,” traveling extensively from Bombay, to Calcutta, and finally ending up in South China, where he remained until his tour ended in 1946.
An unexpected addition to the ceremony, Gables resident Peg Grimm, who was 17 years-old when Pearl Harbor was bombed while she was sitting in a high school English class, shared a poem she wrote entitled “I Weep For My Country,” as a protest to the treatment of enlisted soldiers. Grimm lost three close friends from her high school class, shortly thereafter.
“Nothing has affected my life more than WWII,” said Grimm. “I wrote this poem, because I’m a little angry at our country for the treatment of soldiers and veterans and our lack of respect for them… I do not justify nor do I condemn the wars we’ve fought both then and now. We know the violence of war leave no one totally unscathed. Rather, I choose to honor those who served us everywhere, and remember all those left behind… The interrupted lives, the dreams that will never be fulfilled, that’s what we honor here today.”