Judge Harry Pregerson

The 13th annual San Fernando Veterans Day Parade will take place on Friday, Nov. 11, as planned after several City of San Fernando businessmen stepped up to help pay a last second bill.

Every year part of the Interstate 5 Freeway is closed off for duration of the event, Parade organizer Fred Flores said, and the cost in the past had been covered by state legislature officials. But this year, Flores said the parade committee only received $500 from Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, and event planners had to scramble to make up the difference.

Donations came from several area merchants, starting with accountant Victor Martinez, and followed by the Maya Chiropractic Center, and PM Insurance Services, along with individual contributions from the Faith Center, Joe Lozano, the Dr. Joseph Shainsky Foundation, author Mark Quann and Veterans Charity Ride to insure the parade would occur.

“We owe them all a huge debt of thanks,” Flores said.  

The 2016 Grand Marshal is Judge Harry Pregerson, who adjudicated state and federal cases for more than 50 years before leaving active status from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in December 2015.

Pregerson, 93, who resides in Woodland Hills, was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps during WWII. During the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, he sustained severe gunshot wounds in both thighs. He was later awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart.

Pregerson grew up in Boyle Heights. He graduated from UCLA and the UC Berkeley school of law. He was in private practice in Van Nuys until being appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by Gov. Pat Brown in 1965, and then Superior Court in 1966.

“I was a municipal judge in San Fernando in 1966. Phil Jones was the mayor then,” Pregerson recalled.

President Lyndon Johnson named Pregerson to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Californian 1967. And in 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed Pregerson to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where he presided until deciding to step down.

He is currently on “senior status,” meaning he can hear cases but no longer preside over hearings or sit on large panels that review other 9th Circuit cases.

He has been a longtime advocate of veteran’s interests, and has helped homeless people, including veterans, get housed in Salvation Army shelters — in particular the Bell Shelter, a 40,000-square foot converted U.S. Army Air Base hanger in the city of Bell that opened in 1988 and can care for up to 350 men and women.

But Pregerson said more must be done for the homeless — and for veterans.

“During the Civil War, it was Lincoln who said ‘we have to care for those who have borne the battle,’” the judge said. “But the problem with veterans is complicated…nothing is black and white. Since the 1990s the VA and veterans groups have been working on this issue. But I’ve seen many plans come forth. And it’s always about who’s gonna run it, how is the money spent.

“There are a lot of good veterans organizations working on this. But there is nothing in this life that is easy. Little by little, things are getting better. There are people who want to do something. People are thinking about it. But it takes a lot of people working hard. And society can do a lot more.”

Other 2016 honorees include: 

 — Hospital Corpsman Third Class Frank Garcia, U.S. Navy 1944-1945, World War II Era Honorary Grand Marshal.The 92-year-old Mission Hills resident served in World War II (1944-1945) and in the Korean War (1950-1951) as a combat Medic saving lives in the South Pacific. In South Korea, he attended to many casualties during the Korean War conflict. Garcia was awarded National Defense Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, & the Army Unit Citation. 

—  Pfc. John Escobar, U.S. Army 1951-1953, Korean War Era Honorary Grand Marshal. The Sun Valley resident served during the Korean War with the U. S. Army from 1951 to 1953.

 — Cpl. Luis Rivera, U.S. Marine Corps 1968-1974, Vietnam War Era Honorary Grand Marshal. Rivera is the current Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 83, established in 1939 to serve wounded veterans of the San Fernando Valley. In 1968, Rivera enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, completed boot camp at Camp Pendleton and MCRD San Diego, California. Rivera was sent to the Republic of Vietnam assigned to the 1st Marine Division, Marine Recon Echo Company. On March 4, 1969 Luis was awarded the Purple Heart Medal for wounds suffered while in combat against insurgents of the Communist North Vietnam.

— Petty Officer 2nd Class Albert J. Alcala, U.S. Navy 1989-1999, 2016 Desert Storm War Era Honorary Grand Marshal. The San Fernando resident participated in operation Desert Shield/Storm, operation Kuwait and during the Somalia evacuation deployment. While in the Navy, Petty Officer Alcala served on board the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk, U.S.S. Enterprise,  U.S.S. Boxer and the U.S.S. Independence. Alcala currently serves as a royal ranger commander and is an Alcohol, Drug and behavioral disorder counselor.

— Master Sgt. Manuel F. Gonzalez, U.S. Army 1976 – 2015, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Honorary Grand Marshal, Operation Enduring Freedom Honorary Grand Marshal. Gonzalez joined the United States Army on July 17, 1976 and received an honorable discharge from active duty with the rank of Specialist in July of 1979. He rejoined in the Army Reserves in 1981. In 2001 Gonzalez deployed to Jordan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He deployed again in 2007 with the 311th  ESC to Kuwait and redeployed a third time in 2012 with the 311th ESC to Afghanistan in support Operation Enduring. His many awards include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, and  Army Commendation Medal.

Among those scheduled to appear this year are marching bands from Bravo Magnet, San Fernando, Taft and Van Nuys high schools.

Friday’s parade will begin promptly at 11:11 a.m. The 1.1 mile parade route travels east along Laurel Canyon Boulevard, between San Fernando Mission Boulevard and Paxton Street, culminating at the Ritchie Valens Recreation Center. In addition, weekend carnival begins Friday in Ritchie Valens Park, and concludes on Sunday, Nov. 13.

Highway off-ramps and local streets along the parade route will be shut down to traffic from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.