SOLANA BEACH — Like all good Marines, Sgt. Cynthia Hanna would never begin an assignment without being fully prepared. So as the guest speaker at the May 28 Memorial Day ceremony at La Colonia Park, she researched the history of the holiday.
“I wanted to make sure my words had value,” she said. “In reading articles and looking at historical documents, what I found was very interesting. Continually, there was a reference that Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer.
“What that means is beaches are open, family picnics are organized and hometown parades are held,” she added. “It’s barbecues, vacations and retail sales to celebrate the day.”
She noted that under the Uniform Holiday Act, it is celebrated on the last Monday in May to ensure a three-day weekend.
“The question is, are we slowly losing the meaning of the day?” asked Hanna, who now serves as a detective sergeant with the San Diego Police Department,
She went on to share a story about Federico “Rico” Borjas, who was a police officer on her squad.
“Rico … wanted to honor his cousin, Eric Ramirez, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, as well as fulfill a longtime goal of serving his country overseas,” Hanna said. “’Sarge, I can’t get 9/11 out of my mind.’ And so he joined the Army reserves, trained and then deployed to Afghanistan.”
Borjas had an 11-year-old daughter when he died in October 2008 after his convoy was ambushed in an Afghanistan province south of Kabul.
“Knowing Rico, I have no doubt in my mind he would have given anything for one more day with his daughter — a day to have a picnic, walk on the beach, have ice cream dripping down their chins … to collapse at the end of a holiday weekend and appreciate a sunset,” Hanna said.
“There is no doubt each and every service member who has made this ultimate sacrifice has a similar story,” she added. “This day is about thanking those men and women who died while in uniform in our country’s armed forces.
“Let us appreciate a day which allows us to enjoy ourselves in all the ways which define us as Americans and, along the way, to talk to the people around us and remind them of the sacrifices that were made to make this unofficial beginning of summer possible.”
Solana Beach’s annual event is co-hosted by the city and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5431. Attendees included past and present City Council members, VFW members representing all branches of the military, the Camp Pendleton Young Marines and area residents.
“We are gathered here today, as we do each year, to honor our heroes and to remember their achievements,” Councilman Dave Zito said. “They possessed courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity — all qualities needed to serve a cause larger than one’s self.
“Let us live by the same principles (as) those who have given their lives for us and what has made this the greatest country on the planet,” he added. “Our city’s everlasting appreciation and recognition goes out to all fallen soldiers, sailors and airmen. We are indebted to them forever.”
The Santa Fe Christian High School band performed patriotic songs, and VFW members George Townsend and Clarence Bytof recited the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields.”
The ceremony was dedicated to longtime Solana Beach resident and Army veteran Robert “Chuckles” Hernandez, who passed away April 1. It ended with the release of white doves.
“May they lift our spirits and souls and keep our dreams alive,” said Randy Treadway, who is celebrating his 20th year as post commander.
“We’re really, really privileged to have him,” Zito said.