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Gold Star Manor honors fallen veterans, their families

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gold-star-manor.jpgBY NICK DIAMANTIDES
Staff Writer

About 200 people attended a pre-Memorial Day ceremony at Gold Star Manor last Friday to honor veterans, as well as mothers whose sons or daughters had been killed in battle. Officials at the event also paid tribute to retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral John Higginson, who served as president of the manor for 15 years, until he retired three months ago.
Gold Star Mothers, Inc. was founded in 1928 by a group of mothers who had lost sons in wars fought by the U.S. armed forces. Now a national organization with chapters throughout the U.S., it exists to provide support and encouragement to families of U.S. servicemen and women who have died in combat.
Gold Star Home, Inc. was founded in 1975 to provide a national home for members of Gold Star Mothers. Gold Star Manor has 10 buildings which were constructed in 1975 on a 25-acre campus that used to contain housing for families of U.S. Navy personnel. The site on the northwest corner of Spring Street and Santa Fe Avenue contains 348 apartments occupied by low-income individuals and families. Residents must be at least 62 years old to live there. A HUD-subsidized housing project, it gives priority to mothers who have lost a son or daughter in combat. It currently has five Gold Star Mothers as residents, and many of the others are veterans or were affiliated in some way with the U.S. armed forces.
The Manor campus resembles a park with tall trees and a lush expansive lawn. The grounds, which have security personnel on duty 24 hours a day, also contain a recreation hall, a library and an arts and crafts building.
Former Congressman Steve Kuykendall, who also fought in the Vietnam War as a marine captain, was the keynote speaker. He began by telling the audience that it was tough to deliver a speech on fallen veterans because they evoked memories of fallen comrades. “I just have a very strong sense of feeling for these people who have contributed, as well as those who have contributed all,” he said. “It is very difficult to talk about that.”
Kuykendall said he wanted those who never served in the armed forces to try to understand what it is like to be a man or woman who is willing to risk his or her life for the cause of freedom or to have someone you love die on a battlefield.
He also thanked all the former and present elected officials who took the time to attend the ceremony. “At the core of this democracy and imbedded in our constitution is the concept that we as citizens elect leaders who in turn command the military forces,” he noted, adding that the right to elect the officials who ultimately control the armed forces gives the American people a strong connection to the people who serve in those armed forces. “It’s a unique quality that only this country and a few others have, and the world should learn that,” he said.
Kuykendall added that it was important to honor and support parents who had lost a son or daughter in the service.
The former congressman noted that he and his wife Jan proudly display a Blue Star Flag outside their home to honor their daughter who serves in the U.S. Navy. “Every day we send up a prayer that she and all of he comrades will come home safely,” he said with his voice cracking.
Kuykendall said he was humbled and honored to be able to participate in the ceremony. “You want to know why I am humbled?” he asked. “How could I possibly put into words the cost to those families whose service members we reflect on today? They gave their life for our nation’s service.”
Adding a personal touch to his speech, Kuykendall noted that in May 1972 he arrived in Vietnam for his second tour of duty, and one of the troops under his command was Corporal John Edward Parton, who was killed in combat on July 4, 1972-only six weeks after arriving in that country.
“Corporal Parton is forever in my memory,” Kuykendall said. “As a nation we celebrate July 4th as our Independence Day, but Corporal Parton’s family also celebrates a personal loss to themselves and a gift to our nation.”
Kuykendall stressed the importance of remembering those who fell protecting our beliefs. “We are a grateful nation for the service and sacrifice of Corporal Parton and all the others who served as posted in the ledger book that records the cost of freedom,” he said. “May God bless America and all who serve her.”
Terry Geiling, president and CEO of Gold Star Manor thanked Kuykendall for reminding everyone about the dear cost of freedom. “You’ve brought it all home and made Memorial Day much more meaningful for all of us,” he said.
Congresswoman Laura Richardson, Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, and Long Beach City Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga also spoke at the ceremony. They each honored America’s veterans and present-day military personnel as well as families who had lost loved ones in combat. Each of them also paid special tribute to Higginson for his many years of service to the nation, the city and the residents of the Manor.

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Serving Bixby Knolls, California Heights, Los Cerritos, Wrigley and Signal Hill
Gold Star Manor honors fallen veterans, their families