LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Lawmakers and residents Monday honored veterans in several Memorial Day observances scheduled across the Southland.

An effort to reduce homelessness among veterans was the focus of several events in Brentwood and El Monte.

» Best Ways In LA To Celebrate Memorial Day

The fourth annual 5-kilometer Walk for Warriors took place at the West Los Angeles VA Campus in Brentwood. The walk raises funds for New Directions for Veterans, which provides services to hundreds of homeless veterans and provides services to those at risk of homelessness, including transitional and permanent housing, individual and group therapy, help in finding jobs and legal assistance.

» Best Ways In Orange County To Celebrate Memorial Day

A tribute to prisoners of war and service members missing in action was held during a ceremony at El Monte’s Tony Arceo Memorial Park, featuring former Army Sgt. Joe Leal, founder of Vet Hunters – a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness among veterans – as the keynote speech.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti made three Memorial Day public appearances, the first of which was at the second annual Memorial Day Tribute aboard the Battleship IOWA, which is docked in San Pedro.

KNX 1070’s Margaret Carrero reports Garcetti was flanked by the 16-inch main guns of Battleship IOWA, which was commissioned in 1943 as the lead ship of her class, and quickly joined America’s all-out struggle for total victory over the Axis forces.

The mayor also participated in a Boyle Heights observance, performing the last shift of the 67th annual 24-hour Memorial Day Vigil at the war memorial in Cinco Puntos. At least one person will be standing guard throughout the vigil that began at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Garcetti was among the participants in the Canoga Park Memorial Day Parade. at Owensmouth Avenue and Sherman Way, and continues along Sherman Way to Mason Avenue. The theme of the 90-minute parade, which includes more than 70 entries, is “Saluting the Price of Freedom.”

Organizers received more than 5,000 people for the 29th Annual Memorial Day Observance at Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes, billed as the Southland’s largest annual Memorial Day observance.

The keynote speaker was retired Army Sgt. Daniel Rodriguez, who received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his actions during the Battle of Kamdesh in the Afghanistan War. He was struggling with psychological problems and alcohol abuse, when he remembered a promise made to a fallen comrade to follow their dreams when they returned home — it prompted him to quit drinking alcohol and get into shape so he could play football. He made the Clemson University football team as a walk-on special teams player and receiver, catching 10 passes for 30 yards and a touchdown over two seasons.

Rodriguez’s memoir, “Rise: A Soldier, A Dream and a Promise Kept” is scheduled to be published in October. A movie based on it is set to be released in 2015.

The Rancho Palos Verdes event also included flyovers by vintage aircraft, skydivers and a parade of colors by members of the armed forces, veterans’ groups, police officers and firefighters. Country singer Matt Rogers, bagpipers and the Palos Verdes Symphonic Band were scheduled to perform.

Several thousand people were seen at the Los Angeles National Cemetery for its Memorial Day Observance Ceremony, with speakers including 96-year-old former Army Lt. Yoshito Fujimoto who translated the World War II surrender document signed aboard the USS Missouri by Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu, chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff. Fujimoto was not allowed to be on the USS Missouri for the signing and has not been previously recognized by the U.S. military, according to organizers.

Glendale’s Memorial Day Ceremony was held at Glendale-Montrose-Crescenta Valley Veterans Memorial, located at 613 E. Broadway. The keynote address was given by retired Air Force Col. Nancy J. Sumner, who focused on medical services, aeromedical evacuation, disaster response training and procurement during her 31 years with the California National Guard.

At the Pico Rivera Library, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson spoke at a ceremony that began at 9:45 a.m.

A remembrance ceremony was held at 11 a.m. at Montebello Park in Montebello.

A Memorial Day Observance at the Pioneer Cemetery in Sylmar honored five Civil War veterans buried there. Vietnam War veteran and Sylmar resident Art Guzman were the guest speakers at the observance, which began at 11 a.m. Christian Rubalcava of the North Valley Military Institute explained the meaning of Memorial Day.

In Norwalk, a Memorial Day tribute took place on the lawn of City Hall at 11 a.m. The keynote speech was delivered by retired Marine Dr. Charles Macias, co-author of the book, “Operation Legacy.”

The Redondo Beach Memorial Day Service got underway at 1 p.m. at Veterans Park. Air Force Col. Donna Turner delivered the keynote speech. A special presentation and donation to the Veterans Memorial was made by Gilberto Hirata, the mayor of Redondo Beach’s sister city, Ensenada, Mexico.

In his weekly radio address, President Barack Obama said, “I hope all Americans will take a moment this weekend to think of those who have died in service to our nation.”

“Say a prayer in their memories and for their families,” Obama said. “Lay a flower where they’ve come to rest. Reach out to service members, military families or veterans in your community or families who have lost loved ones and let them know that their service will never be forgotten.”

What became Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868 as Decoration Day, a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Civil War dead with flowers. It was established 25 days earlier by Maj. Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of veterans who fought for the Union in the Civil War. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the nation.

By the end of the 19th. century, Decoration Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. After World War I, the holiday was changed to honor Americans who died fighting in all wars.

The term Memorial Day was first used in 1882, became more common after World War II and declared the official name by federal law in 1967.

Memorial Day had been observed on May 30, until being moved to the last Monday in May in 1971 under terms of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which became law in 1968.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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