Veterans chose the best site for their cemetery. Honor it.
The veterans of several wars gathered. Some arrived by car and motorcoach, others roared in on Harley Davidson motorcycles. Some moved freely, others used wheelchairs and walkers.
But those who could, stood and all saluted as the American flag was raised to fly next to those representing the branches of the military they had served in.
Nearly every elected official that serves the city of Irvine was in attendance, from mayor and city council members to members of Congress. All gathered to honor the veterans and their quest to be buried on the hallowed ground of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.
As those gathered listened to the speeches and saw the tears in the eyes and excitement on the faces of the veterans, they could be excused for thinking, at least for an hour or so, that the issue of establishing a veterans cemetery in Irvine had been put to rest, finally, allowing the honored veterans an assurance that within a few years they themselves would have a place to rest.
They shall. But not until they and their allies in the city, state and the nation have fought a few more skirmishes alongside them, and on their behalf.
Two of the politicians missing from the ceremony honoring veterans were Irvine Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Schott and Councilmember Jeffrey Lalloway. The duo voted against the land transfer which was approved and passed by the Irvine City Council, and which made the awe-inspiring afternoon in the strawberry fields possible.
Also absent was former Irvine Mayor Larry Agran. As noted elsewhere in this issue, Agran is on the march. He’s filed a lawsuit against the veterans cemetery being located at the approved site. And he has turned in petitions in support of a referendum regarding the site of the cemetery.
Those out gathering signatures in support of the Agran referendum told shoppers and citizens that the effort was to “save” a Great Park cemetery. That was the height of cynicism and political foul play.
There’s no doubt that the strawberry fields site is simply better for a veterans cemetery than the original ARDA site. As this publication has been writing for some time, all one has to do is visit the two sites and do a bit of reading to realize that.
Or read the CalVet report that came out in June 2016 estimating that the first phase of creating a cemetery at the ARDA sit would cost $77.4 million because that land is contaminated and includes 77 structures that would need to be demolished.
Should either the lawsuit or referendum advance, many say the cemetery will be stalled, perhaps indefinitely. And that would be the biggest loss of all for our veterans.