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Emotional Memorial Day ceremony on campus

A day to remember

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Emotional Memorial Day ceremony on campus

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Anthony Karambelas

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It’s the question that demands an excusatory answer: how did you spend your Memorial Day weekend? For us, college students, Memorial Day means another 24 hours to study (or procrastinate) for finals. The hard truth is, very few Americans understand or even appreciate Memorial Day for what it is.

Last Tuesday, May 31 the day after Memorial Day, veterans, faculty, and students gathered at the University-Student Union Plaza to memorialize the soldiers who died in service to our country.

Maria Garcia, Communicative Disorders student, began the ceremony by discussing the significances given to certain flowers on Memorial Day.

“Cypress and willow are used for crafting wreath frames, and are also associated with mourning,” she said. “Wreaths are commonly laid at the tombs of soldiers and at memorial send-offs during the Memorial Day and veteran state ceremonies. Wreaths may also be laid in memory of service members lost at sea due to navy action. In a memorial service at sea, the wreath is lowered to the water and set adrift.”

Garcia also introduced U.S. Marines Sergeant Alberto Aranda, the keynote speaker of the ceremony. As she explained, Aranda is a Cal State LA Graduate student, who served two tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and was awarded the Purple Heart. After completing enlistment, he worked towards completing his educational goals including an A.S. in Fire Science and B.S. in Rehabilitation Services.

“Mr. Aranda plans to further his education beyond an M.S degree by pursuing a J.D. from UC Berkeley. His hopes are to obtain a position as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, where he can have a direct impact in making a positive change for veterans with the department of veteran affairs,” said Garcia.

To begin his eloquent tribute, Aranda admitted that he was reluctant at first to serve as the keynote speaker. “[When I was first offered to speak today] it took all my willpower not to say no. Honoring the fallen is something so very dear to me that I had thought that I would be sharing my own grief. But I knew that it was my duty to not let this fall on someone else’s heavy heart.”

But Aranda did more than just honor the fallen. He went above and beyond, pointing out how Americans often misconstrue the true purpose of Memorial Day.

“As I drove down to Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but notice all the Memorial Day sales events, advertisements being recorded on the radio. So many sales going on right now from department stores and dealerships, but not once was there an ad announced declaring the true meaning behind Memorial Day,” he said.

Even with advanced technology, Aranda pointed out how there is a lack of awareness on Memorial Day. Many mix it with Veteran’s Day, when in actuality, they are near opposites.

“Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. We are honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, dating from the American Revolution to the current conflicts in the Middle East. These individuals were ordinary people who did extraordinary things. They raised their right hand and swore to defend the United States knowing there was a high probability they wouldn’t make it home.”

Veteran’s day is for the living. Memorial Day is for the deceased.

Aranda also noted, however, that even when people understand the significance of Memorial Day, they can show a considerable lack of sensitivity.

“When someone tells a veteran or a family member of a fallen service member, ‘I know how you feel,’ we often resent that person even though they meant well and when they said it, it was genuine. However, in our minds, what to say to him or her is that you cannot possibly fathom on how or what we feel.”

While veterans often look unaffected on the outside, Aranda confessed that they feel incredible inner pain and sadness. “For many of us veterans, we walk with a poker face, not revealing any emotion. But we walk with a hole in our hearts on a daily basis. Days like these are typical for many of us veterans to accept the harsh reality and cope with the fact that our brothers and sisters are no longer with us.”

Due to the vast number of fallen soldiers since the birth of our nation (approximately 1,196,793), Aranda explained there are several things the American people can and should do to show their appreciation for American protectors.

“It is our duty, our responsibility, to appreciate the freedoms we enjoy today that were built on blood, sweat, and tears of our service members,” Aranda said.

He also recognized the need to aid American veterans. Being one himself, Aranda stressed the importance of caring for our returning American soldiers. “We need to help our veterans with all the necessary services to ensure they are successful, transition well, and live a healthy life.”

At the conclusion of Aranda’s speech, President William Covino spoke on Cal State LA’s commitment to assisting veterans. “Our Veteran’s Resource Center plays a key role in supporting our student veterans. We’re deeply honored to serve those who have served us.”

Covino also explained how Cal State LA promotes the constitutional freedoms that our American soldiers have fought for. “We strengthen our democracy by producing graduates who have seen these freedoms, who have worked, who have participated in the exchange of ideas and intellectual discourse made possible by the freedom of speech, and who understand the utter necessity of these freedoms.”

Being part of a public university, it vital for us to understand our freedoms as Americans citizens, and attribute these rights and liberties to our brave American soldiers. As we head into the summer, let us not forget that Memorial Day is every day.

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