Remembering the Fallen at Los Angeles National Cemetery

The ceremony honored the war dead and veterans with Jon Voight, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and California's oldest female veteran.

With cannon blasts, rifle shots and the playing of taps, veterans and their families honored their loved ones who died serving their country at the annual Memorial Day Ceremony at the Los Angeles National Cemetery on Monday.

Attendees were also treated to two flyovers from a Coast Guard helicopter and the Condor Squadron of planes from World War II, and the family of Medal of Honor winner Walter Freeman was honored at the ceremony.

Actor Jon Voight led the event, followed by speeches by retired Major General James W. Comstock, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the oldest female veteran in California, Bea Cohen. The 40th Infantry Division band played marches by John Phillip Sousa and other patriotic songs.

"Today we share a common sorrow," Comstock told the crowd, citing the many sacrifices made by those who have died in action. "Unfortunately, many of us take them for granted."

"Today we mourn the dead and honor the living," Villaraigosa said. "We [honor] these people that have made America the friend of the oppressed and the enemy of the oppressors."

Cohen, the oldest female veteran in California at age 102, shared several of her memories from her time as a Women's Army Corps member and prior to that, working as a riveter at the Douglas plant in the Los Angeles area.

"I wanted to do more," she said about her decision to join the army after her time in the aircraft plant.

Helped to the podium by Villaraigosa, Cohen insisted that he help her find the resources to start an upholstery class as job training for veterans.

"We're going to do it, but I can't do it by myself," she said. "Are you listening, Mr. Mayor?"

Among those who came to pay their respects was veteran Issie Deitsch, who served during World War II in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Deitsch who has been attending the ceremony for the past 20 years said, "I got three of my buddies laid to rest here."

Palmdale resident Nancy Walker came with her daughter Lara Walker to honor their son and brother, Staff Sergeant Allan A. Walker, who was killed in Ramadi, Iraq in April 2006.

"We're visiting our son's gravesite, and that's an important thing." Nancy Walker said. But she added she was also attending the ceremony to be part of the larger community.

"It just kind of makes us part of a connection," she said. "They all served. We're honoring them [the living] as well as all the ones who died. It's important to remember and honor and respect them."


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