UCLA students, student veterans, faculty, staff and community members came together today to collect 90,000 U.S. flags that were placed at gravesites at Los Angeles National Cemetery on Memorial Day in honor of American military men and women.
“Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember our fallen soldiers, and I just wanted to show my respect in any way I could,” said Thomas LaMarr, who served in the Marine Corps for four years before getting his undergraduate degree at UCLA a year and a half ago. “I thought it was a great opportunity to come out here, not only to retrieve the flags, but also think about the people who served our country … It’s very humbling. I just feel a great amount of appreciation for all the sacrifice that covers this huge field.”
LaMarr is pursuing his long-term goal to become a clinical psychologist at the Department of Veteran Affairs and is about to begin his Ph.D. studies at Pacific University. “There were a lot of resources at UCLA to help me with that transition [from the Marine Corps] and help me achieve my goals after graduation.”
Another volunteer collecting flags was Larry Reese, a retired veteran who served in the Vietnam War. He drove from his home in Hawthorne to join the effort after hearing a call for volunteers in a news broadcast.
“Today for me is about paying my respects to everybody up here,” Reese said. “I spent 20 years in the Air Force and never had to fire a gun except for qualification. I was never anywhere near a combat zone … So this just … gives me a chance to say thanks.”
“I’m just happy to be out here helping out,” said Evan Madan, a sophomore in UCLA’s Navy ROTC program. “When I was young I visited Arlington National Cemetery, and it left a significant impact on me … on my decision to join the military. So helping out with something like this … makes me feel better.”
This campus-sponsored event was one of several commemorating Memorial Day throughout this month, including a memorial Wall of Honor on Bruin Walk and a family picnic.
“Some people like to engage by taking a moment of silence; other people prefer to do an act of community service. And others like to come together socially and bring community together,” said Emily Ives, Veterans Resource Office coordinator at UCLA. “We try to create multiple ways for the community to support our veterans, to interact with them and appreciate them for everything they’ve done.”
“The cause is such a great cause, I think it’s necessary to make time,” LaMarr said. “It’s easy to make excuses, everyone is busy … but at the end of the day, the amount of sacrifice that these people demonstrated needs to be recognized and respected.”
UCLA has received national recognition for being among the friendliest campuses for veterans. Learn more at http://www.veterans.ucla.edu.