Photo Credit: Pioneer Cemetery

Memorial Day at the old Pioneer Cemetery in Sylmar on May 25, 2015 was another success for the San Fernando Valley Historical Society (SFVHS). The observance began with a color guard and the strains of our national anthem sung by Stefni Valencia. The audience of about 350 enjoyed wisdom from Abraham Lincoln, wreath-layings by Civil War re-enactors and the local Marine Corps League, and the haunting sound of “Taps” performed by two buglers from Boy Scout Troop 104.

“This year’s observance was by far the most emotional for many who came for the first time,” said Ron Van Deest, president of SFVHS. “There were tears in the eyes of stoic veterans and their families who were touched by some of the speeches and songs.”

Jacky Walker, co-chair of the SFVHS Pioneer Cemetery Committee, unveiled a special fundraising Big Brick project to honor troops featuring the logos of the military branches etched into 12 x 12 red pavers. “We plan to create a special section around the main flagpole that will include these logos and other insignias from groups or organizations that represent military history, ranging from the National Guard to the Women’s Army Corps of World War II.”

A major theme of the observance was paying tribute to the five Civil War veterans who are buried at the historic graveyard, paralleling the final year of America’s sesquicentennial observance of the epic war between North and South (1861-1865). Re-enactors read their names and a brief profile, and placed a wreath on the Confederate soldier’s grave. In addition, a special theatrical presentation, “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory-Reflections on the Civil War” was performed by Living Literature Theatricals. Featuring David Aaron, JC Henning, Amanda McManus, David Pinion (as Abe Lincoln), and Marbry Steward, the dramatic characterizations and songs from the Civil War era provided further  

In attendance were U.S. Congressman Tony Cardenas and California State Senator Bob Hertzberg who addressed the crowd and joined in during the “Salute to Troops” sing-a-long. Assemblymember Patty Lopez also attended, but did not speak.

“We could not effectively present this observance year after year without the dedicated efforts of so many volunteers,” Walker said. “We especially want to thank our soundmaster Bobby Arias of Communities in Schools and Jump King for their donation of chairs for our guests. And, we thank our heroes from the Marine Corps League, San Fernando Valley Detachment #1277, who helped with setting up, obtaining a rifle team for the rifle salute, and performing precision military honors during the program.”

This year marked the 14th consecutive year of the Memorial Day Observance at Pioneer Cemetery. For more information and to help with next year’s program, please contact Jacky Walker at 818-970-1286.