Irvine Honors Veterans in many ways
Military Banner Program
Family members and loved ones may nominate an Irvine resident who is an active duty service member to be honored with a street banner with the individual’s name and photo. The banners are displayed on Culver Drive, between Alton and Barranca Parkways. For more information or to make a nomination visit cityofirvine.org/military-veterans/military-banner-program
Each year the city of Irvine honors America’s military servicemen and women who have given their lives defending our nation. The official Memorial Day Ceremony is held at Col. Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park. A ceremony and candle lighting is held at Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial for those who lost their lives during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
Colonel Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park
The plaque at the park adjacent to City Hall helps explain why it’s the center of so much pride and patriotism: “To commemorate Colonel Bill Barber, Irvine resident and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient for heroism under fire at Chosin Reservoir, North Korea, November 28th through December 2nd, 1950, and to the USMC whose presence in and around Irvine symbolized the security of our Nation. Thank You. The Residents of Irvine.”
Barber’s Medal of Honor cites his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”
As ICN noted in a previous issue: “At Bill Barber’s park, flags wave in the breeze and the playground is packed with kids. Cyclists and seniors enjoy the warm weather, and the sound of softballs hitting mitts fills the air.
The diversity of Irvine’s population is apparent at this park, all drawn by the freedom that Barber and his fellow Marines helped ensure.”
Working Wardrobes Vet Net
The nonprofit’s career center is in Irvine, where its services include Vet Net: job services focused on transitioning veterans, as well as those in recovery or at risk of becoming homeless. The service also shares best hiring practices with the corporate community.
UCI Veteran Services
The program helps veteran and reservist students and their dependents obtain educational benefits by submitting entitlement requests to the VA. The center also provides resources to assist veterans in navigating their transition to civilian and student life.
Irvine Valley College Veterans Service Center
The IVC Veterans Office has a stocked food bank and resource list to help make sure student veterans don’t go hungry. It’s just one of many services the center offers, including a writing tutor, mental health services, free dental and an on-campus VA Vet Success counselor, one of the few schools in the country to have one. The center was founded on the belief that “challenges faced by veterans may be addressed through a combination of services stressing academics, camaraderie and wellness.”
Irvine’s military service members who died in the line of duty are honored with plaques at the Flag Monument, which occupies the high ground at Bill Barber Park. Eligible honorees are Irvine residents, defined as having lived in the city, worked or gone to school here. Biographies of those honored can be seen at cityofirvine.org/military-veterans/military-memorial
Heritage and Aviation at Orange County Great Park
Located in Hangar 244, the exhibits on display include World War II airplanes, historic images, and artifacts showing the evolution of the Great Park from its agricultural origins to its role in the military as the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. The hangar also hosts a memorial to 84 men killed in 1965 when the C-135 Stratolifter transporting them to fight in the Vietnam War crashed into Loma Ridge just after takeoff, less than five miles from the base. Supporters and sponsors continue plans for an expanded Museum of Heritage and Aviation in the future.
American Legion Post 838
Irvine’s Bill Barber American Legion Irvine Post 838 serves veterans, military families and the community. Among the events and outreach Post 838 provides is the First Annual Flag Retirement Ceremony, complete with a concert featuring the All-American Boys Chorus. Held June 4 at Col. Bill Barber Memorial Park, the ceremony offers a way to retire these flags with what the American Legion describes as a legal and proper ceremony.
Orange County Real Estate Luncheon
Hundreds of professionals from top real estate companies, developers and financial institutions (many based in Irvine) helped support veterans by buying $500 tickets to attend the third annual Orange County Real Estate Luncheon held this April at Hotel Irvine. The event, which was completely underwritten by Donahue Schriber, has raised some $2 million in three years to support the health education and employment of Orange County veterans, in partnership with the Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) Veterans Initiative.
Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial
Dedicated in 2010, Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial is the first permanent memorial to honor every American service member to die in Afghanistan and Iraq. What started as an informal memorial now includes granite pedestals engraved with the names of the fallen.
2/11 Marine Adoption
The city of Irvine “adopted” the 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division based at Camp Pendleton several years ago. The goal is to provide charitable and educational activities and support for the benefit and welfare of the United States Marines and their families. The volunteer 2/11 Marine Adoption Committee raises money and assembles welcome-home packages for the battalion, and holds special events throughout the year. To volunteer or help go to cityofirvine.org/military-veterans/ways-help-211
Walkable Historic Timeline at the Orange County Great Park
Stretching for 2,604 feet along a former runway, the historic timeline lists world events beginning in 13,000 B.C., as well as dates in the history of MCAS El Toro, the city of Irvine and Orange County. Among the events noted that are significant to the base’s military history include July 1942, when the farmland was purchased to build the base, the conflict in Korea, the U.S. entry into the war in Vietnam, MCAS El Toro serving as a gateway for Vietnamese refugees, and the ending of the Cold War in November 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down.
Operation Valentine at Second Harvest Food Bank
Mothers and daughters from Southern California chapters of the National Charity League have gathered at Second Harvest Food Bank in Irvine each year for some 14 years to assemble hundreds of care packages for local military veterans. According to Second Harvest, the veteran community is vulnerable to hunger. Some 25 percent of households served by Second Harvest include an active duty military person or veteran.
Great Park Gallery
The art gallery at the Orange County Great Park was created out of former military buildings, and has featured numerous exhibits relating to the base.
Southern California Veterans Cemetery
Veterans have sought a cemetery on the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro for more than 15 years. The closest veterans cemeteries are in Riverside and San Diego Counties. After much public debate and discourse, a site known as the Strawberry Fields located near the 5 and 405 Freeways on the former El Toro base was selected as the site and approved by local, state and federal officials. The owner of that land agreed to swap it for the same size property owned by the city of Irvine, resulting in some $30 million of savings in building the cemetery. If a majority of Irvine voters vote “Yes on Measure B” the veterans will have their cemetery. A “No” vote means they most likely never will.