World War I Veterans Remembered at VA Cemetery (Video)

By Sue Pascoe
Editor

Pacific Palisades Sons of the American Legion, in conjunction with the nonprofit Remembering All Our Heroes, held a ceremony at the VA Cemetery in Westwood on November 10 to honor those who fought in World War I.

WWI was one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with 41 million military and civilian casualties: 18 million deaths, 23 million wounded. About two-thirds of the military deaths were in battle. The remaining soldiers were killed in the 1918 flu pandemic.

About 6,500 WWI veterans are buried in the cemetery in Westwood. This was the first of three ceremonies that will be held to honor WWI veterans.

Herman Kemp, a retired Army Chaplain, gave the invocation before the names of 2,200 WWI veterans were read at the VA cemetery in Westwood.

Following an invocation by retired Army Chaplain Herman Kemp, 2,200 names were read. The second reading will be over Memorial Day, and the final names will be read on November 11, 2018, the 100-year anniversary of the armstice.

Lit by a WWII anti-aircraft search light that shot a beam of light 5 1⁄2 miles high, Sons of the American Legion member Hank Elder said the light was a symbol: “The light reaches out to all of those in Europe and those in Flanders Field who didn’t make it home.”

Belgian Consulate Henri Vantieghem attended the ceremony. “It is a high honor to be here tonight,” he said and explained that although his country was neutral in WWI, it was invaded in 1914. The U.S. provided support (food and supplies) through a relief effort, until the U.S. officially entered the war.

“We could count on the U.S. to preserve freedom and civilization in the world,” Vantieghem said.

Additionally, sculptress Manuelita Brown has been commissioned to create a memorial statue of Sgt. Henry Johnson, a Harlem Hellfighter and the first African American to win the Congressional Medal of Honor in WWI. He fought off 20 German soldiers with a bolo knife. President Teddy Roosevelt referred to him as one of the five greatest WWI heroes.

 

At the ceremony, Brown said the statue will not only honor Johnson and be a WWI memorial, it will also “honor the people who get little recognition—the women who were working as nurses and ambulance drivers and those doing reconnaissance in airplanes.”

Once completed, this will be the first memorial placed on the West L.A. VA grounds in 70 years. There are no memorials for WWI, WWII, Korean or Vietnam veterans in the cemetery.

Elder said, “We care about this sacred ground. This is a living place for all and part of our promise we make to never forget.”

A fundraising campaign to build the statue of Johnson will begin soon. Checks may be made out to Remembering All Our Heroes, P.O. Box 1721, Pacific Palisades, CA. 90272.

In the video above, Bob Meza has restored this General Electric carbon arc search light, which was used in W.W.II and now for the past 60 years has been used in the outdoor advertising industry. “There is a visible beam of about five and half miles,” said Meza who bought the original equipment in Bakersfield and then found parts from all over the country to restore the search light. He was on hand for the reading of WWI veteran names on Friday, November 10. Visit victorysearchlights.com for more information.

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