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Memorial Day More Than Beach, Barbecue This Year

With the war's effect still fresh, attendance is expected to grow at Ventura County events for fallen soldiers.

May 24, 2003|Rodney Bosch | Times Staff Writer

In honor of America's fallen soldiers, Bob Thompson of Fillmore will raise his trumpet Monday morning at Bardsdale Cemetery and summon the 24 notes that comprise "Taps."

For more than 30 years, the 51-year-old Thompson has volunteered for the solemn duty at the tiny cemetery, nestled among citrus groves in the eastern Santa Clara Valley. About 50 residents attend the service each year, said Thompson, an auto parts shop owner.

On Monday, however, it is likely that the gathering will be bigger.

Larger numbers of residents across Ventura County are expected to attend Memorial Day services -- big and small -- because of heightened awareness about war and terrorism, event organizers said.

"The intense news coverage has created a public awareness that hasn't existed like this in a long time," said Hal Geer, producer of the annual ceremony at Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village. The production, with musical and theatrical performances, usually averages about 3,500 attendees, said Geer, who filmed World War II battles for newsreels and other projects in the Pacific theater.

Because of the acute attention to the war in Iraq and swelling patriotism, the 86-year-old Geer said he is preparing for upward of 4,000 attendees at Monday's event.

"Many more people will come to these ceremonies feeling like they have to pay their respects and acknowledge that the military is suddenly more important than in years past," he said.

While speeches from politicians and war veterans will anchor many Memorial Day observances, the Valley Oaks Memorial Park event does not include formal addresses.

"We turn to the arts," Geer said. "When we are suffering from grief, our aesthetic needs are most intense. It is healing to turn to the arts in times of emotional duress."

Geer has scheduled performances by the Cal State Northridge Philharmonic, the 150-voice Amen Choir from Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch, barbershop quartets and historical reenactments, along with a jet fighter flyover and other Memorial Day traditions.

Similar musical performances, plus keynote addresses, will be held at the 38th annual "Lest We Forget" service at Conejo Mountain Memorial Park in Camarillo, which averages about 250 attendees, said project coordinator Carol Natera. "I think we could see as many as 350 this year," she said. This year's ceremony will include a rose petal scattering, bagpiper and a firing detail.

At Ivy Law Memorial Park in Ventura, attendance could reach 2,000, organizers said. The ceremony will include a flyover by the 805th Navion Squadron and a white dove release.

Pete Duncan, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the Marines, said the constant combat images from the Iraq war only intensified the patriotic fervor that grew out of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And while he is encouraged that more people are compelled to honor the country's fallen soldiers this year, he would like the awareness to endure.

"Memorial Day is not a sale," he said. "Let's not forget that. It's an opportunity for everybody to reflect on all the veterans that have given their lives in defense of our country."

Local observances on Monday include:


Conejo Mountain Memorial Park, 2052 Howard Road, 482-1959, 11 a.m., including flag ceremony, firing detail salute, keynote speech and musical performances.


Bardsdale Cemetery, 1698 S. Sespe St., 524-3877, 11 a.m., including a reading of the names of soldiers buried at the cemetery.


Veterans Memorial, Moorpark and Los Angeles avenues, 529-9215, 8 a.m., flag ceremony.

Poindexter Park, 500 Poindexter Ave., 529-9215, 10 a.m.


Santa Clara Cemetery, 2370 North H St., 485-5757, 10 a.m., Mass celebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Curry.

U.S. Coast Guard Station, 4201 S. Victoria Ave., 985-9823, 11 a.m., casting of floral wreath on the water.

Santa Paula

Pierce Brothers Cemetery, 380 Cemetery Road, 525-5258, 10 a.m., including a wreath-placing ceremony, firing detail salute, "Taps."

Simi Valley

Assumption Cemetery, 1380 Fitzgerald Road, 583-5825, 10 a.m., Mass.

Simi Valley Public Cemetery, 1461 Thompson Lane, 526-8254, 10 a.m., including a gun salute, speakers and placement of wreaths.


Ivy Lawn Memorial Park, 5400 Valentine Road, 642-1055, 10:45 a.m., including a 21-gun salute and a flyover by the 805th Navion Squadron.

Westlake Village

Valley Oaks Memorial Park, 5600 Lindero Canyon Road, 495-0837, 10:15 a.m., including musical performances, jet fighter flyover and historical reenactments.

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