SoCal Remembers Fallen War Heroes
LOS ANGELES -- The Southland is marking Memorial Day today with several ceremonies and remembrances to honor Americans who died defending their country.

U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley will deliver the keynote address at the 24th annual Memorial Day observance at Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes. The event will include a flyover by F-16 fighters and Black Hawk helicopters.

Los Angeles National Cemetery will host its 120th annual Memorial Day program at 10:30 a.m., with this year's event themed "Letters from the Front." Actors Robert Davi, Robert Forster and Lee Purcell will read letters written by military men and women while in combat during conflicts ranging from the Civil War to the present actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The event will also include flyovers, a rifle salute and a keynote address by Air Force Maj. Gen. James Comstock.

Remembering California's War Dead

Sheriff Lee Baca will be the keynote speaker at Woodlawn Cemetery's 71st annual Memorial Day observance in Santa Monica. The program will also include a flyover by U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters, a dove release and 21-gun rifle salute.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, Councilman Jose Huizar and Vietnam veteran Danny Hernandez are among those scheduled to speak as part of a 24-hour honor guard vigil at the Mexican-American All Wars Memorial in East Los Angeles.

Forest Lawn Memorial Parks will hold observances at its cemeteries in Glendale, Covina, Long Beach and Hollywood Hills. The Glendale ceremony will include a Civil War reenactment and a reading of the Gettysburg Address by actor William Peck.

The somber sound of taps, the colors of the flag and the boom of rifle salutes will mark Memorial Day observances in Orange County.

Fullerton's 71st annual Memorial Day observance, billed as the oldest ongoing Memorial Day ceremony in northern Orange County, will salute the U.S. Air Force, Sylvia Palmer Mudrick of the city said.

Guest speaker Brig. Gen. Eric W. Crabtree will arrive by helicopter. He commands the Fourth Air Force Reserve Command at March Air Reserve Base.

A.B. "Buck" Catlin, a former mayor of Fullerton and retired Navy submarine commander, will be the master of ceremonies. The event, which drew about 1,500 people last year, is sponsored by the American Veterans Memorial Association.

Residents of Mission Viejo will display an "American Heroes Tribute" banner, in honor of Mission Viejo residents who lost their lives serving the country.

Chris Yates, director of the "American Heroes Tribute," will be the keynote speaker.

The celebration -- including a rifle salute given by VFW members --will begin at 8:30 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Plaza, Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center, 24932 Veterans Way, Mission Viejo.

In Huntington Beach, a seaside ceremony will include a rifle salute, the wail of bagpipes and the Huntington Beach High School band.

The program will begin at 11 a.m. at Pier Plaza, 415 Pacific Coast Highway.

Also at 11 a.m., the U.S. Submarine Veterans of WWII will gather at the Submarine Veterans Memorial West at the Main Gate of the U.S. Naval Weapons Station. The Naval Station is at Seal Beach Boulevard between the San Diego (405) Freeway and Pacific Coast Highway.

In a unique remembrance, volunteers at the Riverside National Cemetery spent the past eight days reading aloud the names of all but ten of the 148,000 military veterans and soldiers buried there.

They did this in shifts, 24-hours a day.

The final ten names will be read during a special ceremony later today.

A World War II-era B-25 bomber will drop some 3,000 carnations onto the Palm Springs Air Museum today to honor veterans who died defending the nation.

The white carnations, set to be dropped at 1 p.m., will represent Americans killed in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Red carnations will represent those who died in more recent conflicts, including the Persian Gulf, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans organization. It was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. After World War I, the holiday was changed to honor Americans who died fighting in all wars.