Weekend Open Thread: Do We Celebrate Memorial Day — or Denigrate It?

Veterans Cemetery graphic

Some of us mean it. Some of us might have other priorities — like campaign contributions. Read on for the details.

Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, author of AB-1453 which will bring a Veteran’s Cemetery to Orange County (at federal government expense, as they really appreciate this sort of thing) if Jeffrey Lalloway follows through on his public commitment to join Larry Agran and Beth Krom in support of that project, sent out the following open letter today:

Establish an Orange County Veterans’ Cemetery to Honor Our Veterans

By Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva

Memorial Day is the day Americans all around the nation honor the sacrifices veterans have made serving and defending our country.

This year, it’s also the perfect moment to acknowledge the service of our local veterans by working together to establish a veterans’ cemetery in Orange County.

Several years ago, a group of local veterans banded together to explore the possibility of creating a veterans’ cemetery within Orange County. As a result, the Orange County Veteran Memorial Park Committee was formed and over the years the group has worked tirelessly to garner support for this project from organizations all across Orange County and the State of California.

The nearest veterans’ cemetery still accepting burials is located in Riverside County, which denies our veterans in Orange County the opportunity to be buried in the community they lived in, and is inconvenient to deceased veterans’ families and friends who wish to pay their respects.

A veterans’ cemetery is not merely a resting place for veterans. It is also a shrine that provides a place of perpetual community remembrance for those who served our country. Veterans’ cemeteries provide communities with locations for services and events honoring veterans and the men and women currently serving in the military as well. They are a source of great community pride.

Veterans’ cemeteries have traditionally been constructed and operated by the federal government, but in an attempt to cut costs, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs established a program that provides grants to states to build their own veterans’ cemeteries. Land for the cemetery is typically donated to the state by a local government or private person, and states pay the maintenance costs, which are offset by veterans’ burial benefits. The state cemeteries are covered by the same regulations as the national cemeteries and look very much the same as the national cemeteries, though they are usually smaller.

California has two of these state veterans’ cemeteries, both in northern California, one of which was just recently approved on the grounds of the former Ft. Ord Army Base in Monterey County.

Due to the fact that only states and tribal governments can apply for these federal grants, I have authored legislation, Assembly Bill (AB) 1453, to allow the grant process to move forward for a veterans’ cemetery in Orange County. The bill, which requires the California Department of Veterans Affairs, in cooperation with local governments in Orange County to design, develop, and construct a state-owned and state-operated veterans cemetery, is co-authored by my fellow members of the Orange County legislative delegation, Assemblymembers Tom Daly, Allan Mansoor and Don Wagner, and Senator Lou Correa.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors and 15 cities throughout Orange County have endorsed this legislation. Two other cities will be taking up endorsement resolutions soon.

My colleagues and I are deeply committed to making this cemetery a reality and to championing it at the state level. However we also need action at the local level, particularly a suitable site, in order for the project to move forward.

Siting decisions are deeply local decisions and can be complicated by politics, development interests, and competing land use priorities. However, I believe honoring our fallen heroes and those who put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf, is a tremendously important way to use available land in Orange County.

The City of Irvine has stepped forward, declaring its commitment to honor veterans and support AB 1453, and it is actively considering whether some portion of the Great Park could be used to establish a veterans’ cemetery. Many veterans find that a particularly appropriate site, given the Great Park’s former use as Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. Certainly other locations exist within the county that would be suitable for this project.

Orange County residents can help in this effort by expressing their support for AB 1453, and, if the bill becomes law, by encouraging the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to look favorably upon California’s grant request. Additionally, anyone who has or knows of appropriate land for our veterans’ cemetery should let my office or your local elected officials know.

Whatever the ultimate location, Orange County veterans, as well as veterans from nearby communities, deserve a final resting place with all the honor of a national cemetery, a place that will provide their families and communities a true and lasting opportunity to pay their respects.

We’ll be writing about this much more in the weeks to come.

(Disclosure of Interest: Since late January, I have worked with the Orange County Veterans Memorial Committee and as an occasional liaison to Asmb. Quirk-Silva’s office to ensure approval of such a cemetery this year, while “the stars are aligned.”  I do so as a civilian father of a Naval Reservist who has very much enjoyed being part of the veterans’ effort for this great addition to the Great Park, but who also is largely motivated by the needs and desires of the families of veterans, civilians like me and my wife included, of Orange County and adjacent Greater Long Beach in having their fallen loved ones located in a place that is more easily accessible, given Southern California traffic, than Riverside.  I do not, however, speak for the OCVMP; my views are my own.  Oh, and I don’t speak for the Democratic Party of Orange County either.)

To be approved, AB-1453 needs to adhere to the “legislative calendar,” which describes when legislation must pass committee and floor votes in each chamber, and by what date the Governor mist sign it for it to become law.  The City of Irvine, a majority of the Council of which have said that they want to see a veterans cemetery in the Great Park, has nevertheless been “slow walking” the proposal as an apparent way to ensure that the proposal won’t be voted on in time — apparently, to my eyes, for reasons as petty and spiteful as the desire to deny a political victory to Quirk-Silva in an election year.  (Quirk-Silva, in contrast, has taken pains to share the credit across party lines, trying in particular to bring her Assembly colleague Don Wagner into prominence as a supporter.)

The problem occurred when Jeff Lalloway — who claims to support the project — voted to put Mayor Steven Choi onto the committee that would assess Great Park sites.  (There’s really only one main one under consideration: land that is not owned by Five Point, the developer that profited from a sweet deal passed the City Council majority last year.)  Five Point doesn’t want a Veterans Cemetery there because either:

(1) it wants to build some fancy hotels and retail outlets there, near the fancy sports complex and golf course it agreed to build in what was to have been the Great Park, as part of its deal to be allowed to build almost 10,000 new homes; or

(2) it wants to sell the adjacent homes to the wealthy investors trying to move cash outside of the People’s Republic of China — you know, the communist government that sponsored the communists against whom the U.S. fought in the Korean War and in Southeast Asia during the 20th century — and their target market doesn’t want to live (or have their investment homes, whichever) next to a cemetery, because of “feng shui.”  I’m no scholar of feng shui — but I imagine that it might be particularly bad feng shui if the people buried in the cemetery include soldiers and sailors who were wounded by your own communist government, from which you are trying to shelter money.

Many, many Republicans (as well as, from what I can tell, all Democratic politicians) are on the right — that is, the veterans’, if I really have to explain that! — side of this issue.  It has been a bipartisan effort, led by largely (but not entirely!) Republican veterans and political leaders of both parties, myself included.

Some, people, though, just haven’t gotten into the spirit of Memorial Day.  For them, feng shui has become even more important than honoring veterans.  You think I’m joking?  Get a load of this letter to a veteran from State Senate Minority Leader (and my 2012 political opponent) Bob Huff, as published in Facebook on the EXTREMELY WORTHY OCVMP Facebook page (which also tells you where you can celebrate Memorial Day) with some especially great commentary from my friend Louie Quezada (who did not author the piece):

I received this letter from Senator Bob Huff in response to a request I sent to him asking for help on getting the Veteran’s Cemetery built. As you can see, he is quite concerned about the philosophy of Feng Shui and the folks who are first in line for the planned housing. (I find that to be quite discriminatory on it’s face, but this is not a forum for politics). Anyway, he further adds that he is honored to represent me. Does anyone else see the irony here, or am I just being self-centered?

Huff Feng Shui letter redacted

Bob Huff and I both have wives born in east Asia: the Phillipines for me, I believe Taiwan for his wife. My wife, as perhaps is true of his wife as well, believes in principles of feng shui. But, like her Navy Filipina daughter, she would not dream of giving them precedence over honoring our veterans — and she fully supports the cemetery.

Here’s a free tip, Senator: don’t piss off veterans and their supporters on Facebook!  Some comments in reply:

Louie Quezada This has become political and it’s to bad.  This is NOT just a cemetery. It is HOLY land for those who laid down their lives for our freedom. If that is “Feng Shui” and we put the Chinese philosophical system before our AMERICAN philosophy then when we recite the “Pledge of Allegiance” does it come from the heart or is it just words spoken?

Theresa Smith Wow.. Feng shui is more important than a cemetery for those who have served our country.. Boo for Bob Huff..!!!!
Melissa Fox Sharing.
Like · Reply · 2 · May 16 at 9:57pm
Orange County Veteran’s Memorial Park Since Sen. Huff embraces the Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui so adamantly, one needs to wonder why? He seems to be completely up to date on the City of Irvine’s determination to sell to the Chinese population at the expense of other citizens and those of other faiths. And, in a particular affront to those citizens who honorably served their country and earned the right to rest on home soil, the prevailing philosophy of Feng Shui means that now our fallen must be shuttled off to some community that is willing to accept them, in spite of the bad vibes these deceased individuals may instill in the beliefs that originated in the Far East.
Like · Reply · 4 · May 16 at 8:11pm
Orange County Veteran’s Memorial Park It begs the question … what about OUR Feng Shui??
Like · Reply · 4 · May 16 at 5:33pm
Melissa Mahan Richardson Maybe they should market the properties to people that would consider it a honor to live near these American heroes.
Alex Avila I’m sure that they would be thrilled to learn that there were harmful contaminants that had to be removed from the area from fuel spills, paint, and other things…. how does that sit with the Feng Shui culture?
Like · Reply · 4 · May 16 at 6:37pm
Gerry Ellenson It’s not the Chinese that are the problem. It is, as usual, the short-sighted profiteers for whom the buck trumps the national interest … and the politicians who are in the pockets of big business. ALL politicians are whores but some are worse than others. The “follow the money” principle no doubt applies. It would be fun to follow the cash to Huff.
Like · Reply · 5 · May 17 at 1:20am
Tracy M. Wackerman Well said, Louie Quezada.
Like · Reply · 2 · May 17 at 10:41am
Sam Brandes This is insane!
Like · Reply · 2 · May 17 at 6:27am
Marylea Roth Our World is crazy anymore. Feng Shui….Who are the real heros..
Like · Reply · 2 · May 16 at 8:32pm
Martha Torre de Fuget Absolutely assinine!
Like · Reply · 2 · May 16 at 7:27pm
Linda Darwin Ruth Excuse me?? Feng Shui and housing development? I don’t think so!!
Like · Reply · 2 · May 16 at 5:55pm
Rita Davis-Richards What an ass!
Like · Reply · 2 · May 16 at 5:27pm
Like · Reply · 1 · May 16 at 7:00pm
Louise Lawrence Malenofski Sorry I don’t live in the OC anymore because Bob Huff would not get my vote. Putting feng Shui ahead of the men and woman who gave their lives to give us freedom is certainly not American feng shui. Who’s idea was it to let anyone but Americans on military property anyway? Go get them.
Like · Reply · 3 · May 16 at 5:39pm

I just want to repeat one comment up there, from a woman whom I don’t know:

Maybe they should market the properties to people that would consider it a honor to live near these American heroes.

Indeed — I’d live there without hesitation.  And surely Five Point could stay well afloat selling them to proud veterans, who’d LOVE this!  This isn’t just a cemetery, it’s a veterans cemetery, and to stare out at it every day would be an honor.

As for Bob Huff’s letter — hey, I told you all to vote for me instead, but not enough of you listened!  Let that be a (timely) lesson for you!

This is your Weekend Open Thread.  Talk about that, or whatever else you’d like, within reasonable bounds of decency and decorum.  Here’s a bonus photo for your Memorial Day weekend — maybe you can show it to “deciding vote” Jeffrey Lalloway.

Huff and Choi

Feng duo, Huff and Choi. Or perhaps they’re just just slaves to developers, who can say?

Happy Memorial Day to those of you who celebrate it — especially for those of you who really celebrate it!

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)