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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

A Day to Remember

Hundreds Honor Soldiers Who Gave Their Lives for Their Country

May 30, 2000|CATHERINE BLAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Russell Adams conceded that he came to Ventura this weekend to bask in the Southern California sunshine, enjoy a leisurely family picnic and splash in the waves.

But most important, the Sacramento resident said, he came to honor his grandfather--the patriotic figure he hadn't known very well but who had instilled in him the value of fighting for freedom, the importance of being able to elect the nation's government and the pride that comes from wearing a uniform.

Gilbert Adams, who had served during three wars, was on the minds of the five Adams family members sitting solemnly watching the American flags snap in the breeze at Ivy Lawn Memorial Park.

He died last month, three days before his 74th birthday, in his hometown of Camarillo.

The 22-year-old Russell Adams feared that many in his generation would not spend even a few seconds Monday acknowledging the debt owed to the American soldiers who had given their lives for their country.

Watching an elderly man in uniform bend over to place a wreath on the ground, Adams said, "See how much pride he has. I wish I had an ounce of his pride."

Adams was among about 500 people who gathered for more than an hour on a grassy expanse at Ivy Lawn to mark Memorial Day.

The commemoration drew families of the deceased and the living, groups of older men wearing outgrown fatigues with medals dangling, and spectators dressed in vibrant colors and warding off the sun with hats and umbrellas.

In ceremonies from Ventura to Simi Valley to the Conejo Valley, thousands of county residents turned out to honor, cherish and remember the more than 1 million Americans who had died in battle.

"The flag did not get there by accident or chance," said Capt. Frank Budroe, the keynote speaker for the Ivy Lawn ceremony. "We pay special homage to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. As is so aptly said, 'Freedom is not free. There is a price to pay for living in a free society.' "

Oxnard resident Mari Garcia wanted to reinforce that point to her 2-year-old son, Ruben Raul Arevalo, so she and her husband took him to see the headstone of her father's grave at Ivy Lawn cemetery.

"Look, this is your grandpa," she said, pointing to a headstone she was cleaning off with a rag. "This is Raul, just like you--Raul."

Raul Garcia, who died in 1983, had served in the Marines.

"He's got to know his family," said the boy's father, Fernando Arevalo. "This is his heritage, his roots. It doesn't matter if he's passed away."

As a beam of bright sunlight broke through the layers of hazy clouds, the event concluded with the release of white doves in a symbolic statement of hope for peace around the world.

Many county events featured patriotic music, the placing of a wreath, a rifle salute and the playing of taps, along with commemorative speakers.

Peace was a theme at other events throughout the county.

At Simi Valley Public Cemetery, about 250 people gathered to honor the war dead and share tears and smiles. Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) spoke to the crowd, remembering those who wore their nation's uniform.

Susanne Dischner, one of the organizers, said the focus of many of the speakers was how to keep more people from being killed in wars.

"We're all trying to remember that we've had people lost, while working to keep the country free and peaceful so we don't lose anymore."

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