By Lori Saldaña
We commemorate #MemorialDay
It’s not a celebration.
It’s a day for remembering those who sacrificed their lives in service to their county, in training and in combat, and a time for expressing solemn recognition and gratitude for the family and friends they left behind.
Visit their graves, offer a prayer, and honor their service.
Don’t encourage people to be “happy.” Encourage them to be thoughtful, and to remember those who have paid the ultimate price in service to others.
My father- a career US Marine- passed away in May 2015. I made him my “Veteran of the Year” in 2010- my final year as a California Assemblymember.
Last summer, as I cleaned out his belongings, I found some of his writings about his combat tour in Korea that I had never seen before. He was a troop leader- and never was I more conscious of the responsibilities he held, the losses he endured, and the impact those losses had on his life and USMC career than when I read his writings of those 12 months in Korea.
I knew my father kept his heavy down sleeping bag for decades, and we used it while camping. But I never realized it represented the difference between life and death for many Marines, who were not accustomed to the severe winter cold of the Korean peninsula, and often grew weak and sick from sleeping in the frigid night air.
I knew my family had “adopted” the Fort Rosecrans gravesite of one of his fellow Marines, Angelo de Stefano Jr., who was KIA in combat. My family visited often, decorated his grave, and sent photos of the seasonal flowers to Angelo’s parents, who lived in Long Beach. They rarely had a chance to visit their child’s final resting place.
I believe Angelo was their only son. We always included them in our bedtime prayers, said as a family- the part when we go through the long litany of names after saying “…and God bless…”< Still, when my father made Angelo Sr. my godfather, I didn’t fully understand the significance of that designation, but after reading my father’s recollections of Korea...it's becoming more clear. RIP Angelo Jr. and Senior. Thank you for your sacrifices.