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Let’s Remember Why We Commemorate Memorial Day!

by

Memorial Day is a time for Americans to reflect on the sacrifices that military personnel and their families make to keep us all safe, and to mourn those who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

If you are not familiar with our City’s military history, Irvine was home to the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) for nearly six decades. It was commissioned in 1943 during World War II and became the center for support operations and combat readiness of Fleet Forces in the Pacific during the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The air station was also home to thousands of military families.

MCAS was decommissioned in 1999. A few years later, the land was transferred to the City of Irvine. In 2014, then-Councilman Larry Agran secured unanimous Council support for construction of a beautiful Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery on the Great Park “ARDA” site — the land where the iconic aircraft control tower and runways were located.

For nearly a decade, land developers and the politicians they control tried time and again to stop the project. In fact, it took two citizen-led petition campaigns, a vote by Irvine residents, and sending Larry Agran back to the City Council in 2020 and 2022 with voter mandates to start construction of the 125-acre Veterans Memorial Park on the ARDA site, which finally began last year.

When construction is complete, the Veterans Memorial Park will include the restored aircraft control tower; a Walk of Honor; the Great Memorial Meadow flanked by a wall of trees; a Remembrance Green for quiet reflection; a heavily forested Arboretum accessed through a network of walking trails; and memorial gardens. A perimeter park will provide a visually beautiful buffer between the interior of the Veterans Memorial Park and the adjacent streets and homes. The perimeter park will be filled with trees, trails, historical markers, and interpretive installations — all paying tribute to our City’s military history.

While Vice Mayor Agran has already succeeded in getting construction of the Veterans Memorial Park underway, he’s still working to fulfill the City’s original promise to veterans and their families — the inclusion of a state-funded Veterans Cemetery.

Here at Irvine Community News & Views, we have reported on this matter for the past decade. Through our online polls and letters sent to me as publisher, it is clear that the majority of Irvine residents support a Veterans Cemetery. What’s been heartbreaking is reading messages from families here in Irvine and across Orange County who have held on to the ashes of their loved ones for years in hopes that Vice Mayor Agran can rally his Council colleagues to do the right thing.

This Memorial Day, let’s do more than post a quick “thanks” on social media. Let’s join together as a community in celebrating the current construction of the Veterans Memorial Park. And, let’s make it clear to the Council that we also support the inclusion of a Veterans Cemetery as part of the Veterans Memorial Park. That’s how we can truly honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans and their families!

Franklin J. Lunding

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