Wyatt Nielson got a visit from his mother, Gloria Gould, Monday morning at Green Hills Memorial Park for Memorial Day.
She brought him a bouquet of flowers — red, white and blue daisies — and spoke about his love and dedication for billiards and this nation before he died in 2009.
Nielson was a Marine for four years, something his mom said, “gave him direction.”
“I think that it was just the path he was destined to be on. He was so proud being in the service,” said Gould. “When I went to see him graduate, I don’t think I was any more proud of anybody than I was of him.”
As thousands of American flags fluttered in the South Bay breezes, hundreds of men, women and children gathered to participate in the 34th annual Memorial Day Observance. It’s the largest Memorial Day observance in the South Bay — and one of the largest in Southern California.
Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor Jerry Duhovic addressed the crowd of a few hundred and said the men and women who are buried at Green Hills Memorial Park, and other cemeteries, “sacrificed their futures for us to enjoy our present,” and that remembering those is a “somber, sobering and reflective exercise.”
Mothers, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers were among the many being remembered Monday.
Fernando Romero came out to show his appreciation for his little brother, Alex Romero, who died in a training exercise in 2018. He was a member of the United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance.
“He was very patriotic and he wanted to serve his country,” said his brother.
Others remembered their parents. Darlene McClain posed for a photo with her dad’s new headstone, Alex De Vera and showed her appreciation for her father’s service in the Navy.
“He wasn’t even 18 yet when he joined,” she recalled. “I was so happy to see his picture was added (on the headstone) in time for today.”
Rafael Rodriguez saw his cousin, Higinio Torres, “every other week,” before he died in Vietnam.
Rodriguez’s daughter now serves in the Navy and his son is a Marine.
He and his wife, Elia, were both on the verge of tears Monday talking about their military family and the sacrifices they’ve made.
The observance included an array of patriotic moments, including:
- Flyovers by the Air Force C-17, the Coast Guard, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Aero Bureau, the North American SNJ-5 “War Dog” and CJ-6A’s Tiger Squadron;
- A special skydiving performance by the 21st Century skydiving team;
- A parade of colors presented by the armed forces;
- Myriad veterans’ groups, police, firefighters, K9 teams and JROTC;
- The release of 100 doves;
- And the presentation of memorial wreaths with a 21-gun salute and the traditional playing of “Taps.”