Veterans, their friends and family, and public officials honored fallen Mexican American soldiers at the 65th annual Memorial Day Ceremony at the Cinco Puntos intersection and war memorial in Boyle Heights on Monday.
The tribute began Sunday in a 24-hour vigil where volunteers including service members from Veterans of Foreign Wars, Marine Corps League and American GI Forum stood watch at the memorial for 30 minutes at a time until the Monday morning ceremony.
Boyle Heights natives Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar also participated in the vigil, which has been part of the ceremony for six years. Roybal-Allard, talked about her Mexican-American heritage and recalled growing up in “the barrio.” She expressed her deep respect and recognition for the sacrifice made by veterans and their families.
Mexican-American pride was a recurring sentiment throughout the ceremony as U.S. Army Reserve Specialist Veronica Martinez took her place at the podium and spoke strong and resonant words of the significance of Memorial Day, focusing on the men and women who gave their lives for this country.
“I’m not only a proud soldier, but I’m proud to be a Mexican-American soldier, because that’s what I am,” said Martinez, who was received with unanimous applause.
“Let’s always remember that today is about them. To all the men and women that are here today in uniform, and that have served before me and that will serve ahead of me, I thank you because you have left a legacy behind us but for me to follow.”
Just steps away, Japanese American families remembered fallen U.S. war veterans at Evergreen Cemetery. Jim Yashimata, 88, a World War II veteran, slowly walked past graves, remembering those he served with. “Too many friends here,” he said.