LA JOLLA, Calif. — Hundreds of San Diegans showed up to Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial on Monday to salute those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The Memorial Day ceremony, which also honored former President Ulysses S. Grant, included music by the Navy Region Southwest Band, the Marine Corps Color Guard, a 21-gun salute and a flyover by the San Diego Performance Foundation Team.
World War II veteran Joe Reilly, 97, is one of nearly 5,000 war heroes whose name and picture is displayed on the memorial wall in La Jolla. He was a paratrooper during the Invasion of Normandy, where he will return next week to meet the president of France.
“I’ll put on my uniform — I can still get in it — put on my jump boots and let the people know what a World War II man looked like so many years ago,” Reilly said.
Also among the invited were 94-year-old World War II veteran Bill Galbraith, who was a machine gunner.
Both men, although they shared their stories, were not at the ceremony for themselves but for their comrades who never made it home.
“We’re here today to help celebrate the day. So many of my friends are not here because they passed away in war,” Reilly said. “We lost so many men. So many men went down.”
They say all they ask the younger generations for in return is they keep their patriotism and never forget the sacrifices made that allow them to enjoy the freedoms they have today.
“We don’t kneel during the National Anthem, you can be sure of that, but actually in my day, everybody was really patriotic,” Galbraith said. “It wasn’t a choosing thing.”