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The Veterans Corner: What is So Objectionable About a Beautiful Park Honoring Veterans and Irvine’s Six-Decade Military History?

by

On February 8th, the Irvine City Council majority tried to put the proverbial “nail in the coffin” of Orange County veterans.

Mayor Khan and Councilmembers Kuo, Kim and Carroll voted to deny veterans our long-promised Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery on the ARDA site at the Great Park.

Instead, they want to turn the entire 125-acre ARDA site on the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station into a giant botanical garden that has nothing to do with veterans or our City’s six-decade military history. (They are bragging on social media that their huge botanical garden will include a tiny 5-acre veterans memorial “component,” as though veterans should be thankful.)

My name is Ed McNew. I am an 89-year-old U.S. Army veteran. I took a pledge to serve my country with truth and honor. Other than Councilman Larry Agran, the Mayor and her majority have betrayed Orange County veterans and tens of thousands of Irvine residents. I guess that makes sense: Larry Agran is the only veteran on the Council.

You see, in the fall of 2019 and right up until the pandemic, I gathered signatures for a citizens’ Initiative to get a Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery built on the ARDA site at the Great Park. I spent 6 to 7 hours every day for nearly five months straight, dedicated to that task. In fact, I only took off Thanksgiving, Christmas and one other day. For months, I stationed myself in front of grocery stores with my walker and my clipboard, talking with Irvine residents — including many veterans. Most residents I spoke with were aware of the ARDA site and were enthusiastic in their support and eager to sign the petition.

Ed McNew gathering signatures in January 2020.

I take great pride in the fact that I single-handedly gathered nearly 4,000 of the 19,790 signatures that were submitted for the Initiative.

When the Initiative became law during the May 12, 2020 Irvine City Council meeting — after it was adopted by Khan, Kuo and Carroll — I thought, “Mission Accomplished!” I was thrilled that all my hard work had paid off.

Throughout the 2020 election season, Mayor Kahn and now-Councilmember Kim made a promise to support the Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery on the ARDA site. I voted for them based on that promise.

It’s hard to describe my disappointment when Mayor Khan and Councilmembers Kuo, Kim and Carroll began to side-step the law and renege on their promise to veterans and our families. First, they delayed construction. Next, they began talking about a completely different piece of property that they referred to as the “golf course” site. And then they endorsed an unstudied, inferior site out near Riverside County.

Now, they don’t even support the plan put forth by Councilman Agran to build a big, beautiful park and air museum that honors veterans and pays homage to the former Marine base.

Councilman Larry Agran’s proposed park to honor Orange County veterans and our City’s military history

It’s easy to say that you honor and support veterans during campaign season, but when it’s time to actually do something for veterans, it sure seems like four of the five Councilmembers in Irvine don’t really care. It’s very disheartening when promises are made and not kept, especially when the law is quite clear.

Those of us who served consider the ARDA site hallowed ground because this is where thousands and thousands of military personnel deployed overseas during World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. The original runway, control tower and hangars are still there waiting for preservation, along with space for a commemorative air museum.

Every Irvine resident should be asking this question: Why is a beautiful park and air museum honoring veterans so objectionable to Mayor Khan and Councilmembers Kuo, Kim and Carroll? Why are they so opposed to a Veterans Memorial Park that they are willing to break our Initiative law and ignore the will of the people of Irvine?

NOTE: This is the second in a series of articles from Irvine veterans and their families. To read the first article in this new series, click here.

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