by Larry Grooms
special to Aerotech News
In a Nov. 11, 2022, address to the Veterans Day audience at the historic Lancaster District Cemetery, Congressman and Naval combat veteran Mike Garcia challenged Americans to defend liberty alongside, “the one percent of the population who put their lives on the line to defend us.”
Presumptive winner of reelection in the 27th Congressional District just three days earlier, Garcia said, “You shouldn’t have to call your congressman” to get help with veteran benefits being delayed or denied. Popular among veterans’ organizations in the district, Garcia credited members of his staff for their expertise and tenacity in pursuing veteran claims.
“We do need to improve the VA,” he said, pointing out the current crisis in attracting new recruits in all branches of the armed services. Citing what he termed a deplorably low military base pay in the range of $21 to $22 an hour, Garcia said, “an 18-year-old can make more than that at In-an-Out.”
Calling attention to the number of official “distinguished guests” introduced in the audience (himself included), Garcia commented, “Today the distinguished guests are the veterans. We should treat our vets and law enforcement as the real heroes.”
Reflecting on the nation’s beginnings 246 years ago, Garcia said, “Experts wouldn’t have bet on us.” A small collection of colonies without a powerful army and no navy, “we weren’t expected to survive. Our survival as a nation defied the odds.
“We are,” Garcia said, “blessed by the Hand of God to be able to live in the greatest nation on earth; not perfect, but as close as any nation has come.”
Americans in uniform constitute less than one percent of the population choosing to put its lives on the line to defend the rest, Garcia said.
And while praising veterans for their service, sacrifice and bravery, the congressman offered what he termed as constructive criticism of a multi-generational lapse among veterans in passing along the military heritage and tradition to children and grandchildren.
Garcia expressed the belief that beginning with the Greatest Generation, veterans feeling remorse over long years of separation from their families, sought to compensate and substitute personal heritage and history bonds with material things denied by home front war deprivation. “Your family is proud of you,” he assured. “Your children need role models.”
Evoking a theme voiced by President George Washington, Garcia concluded that being prepared for war is the most effective way to keep the peace.
The congressman’s remarks about the dedication of America’s veterans followed and amplified the personal story of 100-year-old World War II vet Lou Moore, one of the 20,000 Chinese Americans who volunteered to fight the Nazis in Europe.
Speaking from his wheelchair, Moore told of “the lives of people we lost, and the lives of people we saved.”
Entering the Army soon after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, Moore recalled being “five, five and 140 pounds in fights with Germans six-feet-tall, 180 pounds.” He said, “I learned to be brave, because that’s what the military teaches you.” In recognition of his courage, Moore was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal last year.
But the now ancient warrior accorded his highest praises of credit to the American men, women and children who waged the war against tyranny on the home front, growing the crops, building the weapons, donating the blood, buying the war bonds and rationing and recycling the raw materials needed to feed, arm, house, pay, transport and heal those who fought the enemies of freedom. And he said, “Those who stayed home didn’t have it easy. Thank you to all the citizens of this country. All I did was put on the uniform and fight like hell.”
Moore’s war story ends in peace, happiness and a love story. He met and married Nellie Hatsumi Mayeda, a loyal Japanese American unconstitutionally confined to an internment camp.
The story of their 74-year marriage is shared in Moore’s volume, “Eternal Love” available on Amazon.
This year’s observance in the Veterans Court of Honor at the historic Lancaster District Cemetery was attended by more than 125 people, according to Dayle Debry, manager and emcee.
Dave Owens, chairman of the cemetery district board of directors, made opening remarks, and with trustees Richard Cook and Christine Ward recognized dignitaries and Veterans representatives.
The Antelope Valley Young Marines participated and presented the Colors, while the Highland High School Choir performed the National Anthem and other patriotic music.
The Invocation was delivered by Pastor Joel Plantinga of Desert Winds Community Church. Memorial wreaths were placed by AVCD diectors, Antelope Valley Blue Star Mothers and Marine Corps League Detachment 930.