ENCINITAS — Local leaders, veterans, active-duty service members, families and friends gathered in front of the American Legion building on Memorial Day in Encinitas to honor more than one million men and women military service members who have died serving the United States.
The event was hosted by American Legion San Dieguito Post 416 and Encinitas Elk’s Lodge 2243, and led by Steve Lewandowski, Jr. Past Commander of Legion Post 416.
Local Boy Scout troops led the group in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, which was followed by Musician 2nd Class Nina Church’s performance of the National Anthem. Church is a member of the US Navy Band Southwest Performing Ensemble.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Councilman Tony Kranz, Republican Assemblyman and retired Marine Col. Rocky Chavez and San Diego County Supervisor and 49th Congressional District Republican candidate Kristin Gaspar each addressed the crowd, sharing personal thoughts on the meaning and importance of Memorial Day.
Blakespear reminded those in attendance that just “a fraction of one percent of our fellow Americans shoulder the heavy responsibility of defending our way of life across the globe.”
The overall message of the mayor’s speech called for unity in collective appreciation for those who have lost their lives to protect the freedoms enjoyed by all Americans.
“It doesn’t matter how we feel about any past or present conflict,” Blakespear said in her address. “It’s important to respect and honor our fellow citizens in uniform for their willingness to sacrifice their individual freedoms, time with their own family and personal safety to protect the America we all love.”
Councilman Kranz recognized North County service members, reading aloud the names of fallen soldiers who had graduated from San Dieguito High School.
Chavez, who is running to replace Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) in the 49th Congressional District race, recounted a harrowing and inspired tale of survival told to him by his father, a Marine who survived the first wave of landings on Iwo Jima during World War II.
Chavez said that by the end of the three-day holiday, he will have paid his respects in locations around North County, including Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Oceanside, San Clemente and Vista.
“It’s about those who sacrificed,” Chavez said. “It’s just a great day.”
Lewandowski later asked those who gathered to share the names of any family members or friends who died in various combat operations, prompting several attendees to stand and honor their loved ones.
The ceremony concluded with a customary playing of “Taps” performed by trumpet player Musician 1st Class Collin Reichow.
Immediately after the event, the public was invited to a BBQ lunch inside the American Legion building for a suggested donation.