Santa Paula Times

Memorial Day observance draws hundreds of people to SP Cemetery

June 02, 2000
Santa Paula News

David Lopez, Korean WQar Veteran addresses the large Memorial Day crowd

The red, white and blue of the American flag was much in evidence as hundreds of people attended the annual Mercer-Prieto VFW Post 2043 Memorial Day service held May 29th at Santa Paula Cemetery. The Santa Paula High School Band, under the direction of Ed Roina, played patriotic songs and hundreds of American flags fluttered in the wind as more and more people streamed into the cemetery. Members of the VFW were out in force and didn't let the hot sun wilt their commitment to the observance.This year’s program concentrated on the 50th anniversary of the start of the Korean War with David Lopez, an Army veteran, VFW Post 2043 member and founder of the Korean War Memorial Highway effort, talking about the toll the military action took on America as well as the world.“The Star Spangled Banner” was sung by the crowd before the Rev. Merle Lehman gave the invocation, noting how God can bring new life from destruction and “hope out of despair. . .” of war.“Freedom is not free,” said Post Commander Carl Barringer, and many wars preceded Korea that ultimately claimed over 54,000 American lives and left more than 300,000 wounded and/or disabled.Lopez, who was a BAR carrier while serving in Korea with the Army (1951-53), was awarded a Purple Heart among other medals for his service. The Korean War “lasted 37 months and two days” and 8,177 Americans are still declared missing in action.The names of those Santa Paulans who fought and died in Korea were read, and Lopez said the 50th anniversary of the start of the war - June 25 - will be accompanied by many memorial ceremonies throughout Ventura County and the nation.
“People call it the Forgotten War and we want to prove it's not,” Lopez, president of the Korean War Veterans Chapter 56, added.This year's Memorial Day service included a demonstration, narrated by Lopez, of ceremonial flag folding as well as an explanation of the 12-steps and their meaning of the Stars & Stripes.Laying of Wreaths on the Civil War Grand Army of the Republic Memorial included many organizations and individuals who paid homage to those Americans who died fighting in all wars; there was a Gun Salute from the Mercer-Prieto VFW Post 2043 Rifle Squad and “Taps” - always an emotional event - was played by Sammy Solace.After the ceremony, Soroptimist International of Santa Paula hosted a reception at Veterans Memorial at Veterans Park.