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Eternal Valley event honors troops

Ceremony includes 21-gun salute and AT-6 flyover

Posted: May 27, 2008 1:46 a.m.
Updated: July 28, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Steven Leon, 21, of Saugus, who returned from Iraq on May 13, salutes the American flag during the ceremony.

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World War II veterans in uniforms that, amazingly, still fit and Vietnam veterans in leather jackets arriving astride Harley Davidson motorcycles gathered with other veterans and the people who wanted to thank them Monday at Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall.

Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar said it was the largest crowd he has seen at the annual Memorial Day event.

"I can't think of a better way to celebrate Memorial Day than to have a big crowd come out to honor our veterans for their service," Kellar said prior to the ceremony.

David Zucker, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Veterans Memorial Committee told the crowd that more than 800 deceased veterans now have their names inscribed on the Memorial Wall at Eternal Valley. The green hillsides behind Zucker were dotted with nearly 5,000 American flags, which were placed on the graves of veterans by local scouts on Saturday.

"We've come here today to honor those veterans who served, as well as those who were laid to rest here at Eternal Valley," Zucker said.

This year, special tribute was paid to veterans of World War II and Korea. These veterans were asked to stand and were presented with a forget-me-not bouquet by the scouts in attendance.

"Tom Brokaw refers to them as the greatest generation," Zucker said. "We owe our lives, our freedom and our prosperity to these heroes."

Sitting in the front row in full uniform was 91-year-old Tony Marincola, a World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Zucker had Marincola stand for the audience.

"He's been wearing that uniform for 64 years, and it still fits," Zucker said.

Marincola, sitting next to his wife, Genevieve, 89, said that he comes to the Memorial Day Tribute at Eternal Valley every year.

"I feel honored that they have this every year, and that they still remember the veterans," Marincola said. "The veterans are not lost."

Eagle Scout Nathan Crookston of troop 496 lead those present in the Pledge of Allegiance. In addition to the many scouts who participated in the ceremony, other young people were in attendance included the Valencia High School Air Force Junior ROTC, which performed the posting of the colors at the beginning of the ceremony and a drill team exercise near the end.

Michael Avila, 12, is den chief of Boy Scout Pack 583.

"We're coming here to thank the veterans that passed away, and to give them flags on their graves," Michael said. "We're also here to thank the veterans that are still alive, because they protected us."

Prior to the ceremony there was a World War II AT-6 aircraft flyover, and a U.S. Air Force C-17 flyover during the ceremony. The ceremony ended with a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps.

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