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A day of remembrance. A day of respect. Memorial Day is just around the corner and there are various ways to observe the honorable holiday across Orange County. Memorial Day, not to be confused with Veterans Day (which falls in November), is a day to honor men and women who have sacrificed their lives to serve the country, and who’ve died doing so. 

This year on May 31, remember the fallen by visiting a field of honor, attending a local memorial service or by participating in the national moment of remembrance.

Homefront America’s Field of Honor

Location: 26801 Ortega Highway in San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano is teaming up with Homefront America to put together a special display of 400 7-foot community-sponsored American flags, commemorating fallen military heroes, veterans and first responders. 

Homefront America is an all-volunteer outreach and support organization hoping to enhance the quality of life for military families. The nonprofit encourages local communities to come out to the mission to express patriotism, pride and respect for America and its veterans. 

Visitors can sponsor an individual flag to add to the exhibit and honor their loved ones. Sponsorships begin at $50 per flag with all proceeds benefiting Homefront America.

Mission San Juan Capistrano is excited to be part of such a uniting event that honors soldiers from different backgrounds, beliefs and walks of life.  

“To see hundreds of American flags beautifully displayed and each representing an actual person who has served our country should be pure awe,” said Mechelle Lawrence Adams, Mission San Juan Capistrano executive director.

The Field of Honor will be open at Mission San Juan Capistrano from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will run through Memorial Day. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time online at https://www.missionsjc.com. All active military, veterans, first responders and those with memberships to the Mission’s Preservation Society will receive free admission.

Field of Honor at Castaways Park 

Location: Dover Drive and 16th Street, Newport Beach

The Exchange Club of Newport Harbor has put together its 12th Annual “Field of Honor” at Castaways Park in Newport Beach in honor of the military. Starting on Armed Forces Day (May 15) and visible throughout Memorial Day each year, the nonprofit service club places 1,776 flags along the pathways of the park overlooking Newport Harbor. 

The Exchange Club of Newport Harbor invites the community to dedicate a flag to a loved one who has served in the armed forces, whether in the past or present. Flags for dedication are available to purchase at $45 per honoree. 

All flags can be seen with a yellow ribbon tied below them, along with the name of a fallen soldier. Some other ribbons may have names written in by family members or friends, while others may also just read “In Honor of Those Who Have Served.”

Castaways Park is open to the public, so feel free to stroll through at no cost and honor our armed soldiers and first responders from many branches of service. All proceeds from flag dedications and donations go toward organizations that serve to support military families as well as local youth charities and high school scholarships. 

For more information or to dedicate a flag, visit www.exchangeclubofnewportharbor.com

Laguna Hills Memorial Day 5K and 10K

Get running this Memorial Day and participate in the City of Laguna Hills’ 5K and 10K events, while honoring the United States Marine Corps’ Dark Horse Battalion. 

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the usual half-marathon and kids events will not be held in person. The in-person events will be operating at 50% capacity compared to past attendance. Participants may also opt for the virtual option, in which participants may run or walk the race on their own time. However, it is encouraged to run and walk together virtually on Monday, May 31 regardless of where in the country participants are.

All race finishers will qualify to receive this year’s event medal. Part of the Laguna Hills Memorial Day Legacy Medal Series, the 2021 race medal honors all women veterans and showcases two women runners in the center. 

Registration for race distances is now open and can be bought online for $45 through race day only at https://lagunahillshalfmarathon.com/

Memorial Day 2021 Virtual Ceremony 

Forest Lawn in Cypress will be hosting a virtual event in an effort to abide by orders from public health officials and to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. 

The program will feature several events including a color guard, a presidential proclamation, an invocation ceremonial wreath presentation and two keynote speakers. 

The keynote speakers will be Lt. Col. Jennifer Burghdorf and her husband Maj. Andy Burghdorf, who both serve as U.S. Air Force Reserve officers. The couple met at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and while serving on active duty have both been stationed overseas in Guam and Germany. 

The virtual program will be streamed live only on May 31 at 10 a.m. and can be found on the Forest Lawn Facebook page

Northwood Memorial Candle Lighting Ceremony & Memorial Day Ceremony 

Location: Northwood Community Park, 4531 Bryan Ave., Irvine

Northwood Community Park will be hosting the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial. Visitors are invited to the park to light a remembrance candle and wall rub names from the memorial to honor those who have fallen. 

The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 29 and from noon to 8 p.m. on May 30. Staff will be at the memorial to ensure guests are following social distancing guidelines and maintaining health regulations. 

On May 31 at 10 a.m., the remembrance continues with a virtual Memorial Day ceremony. The City of Irvine will be presenting a prerecorded video that will include tributes from Lt. Col. David Tumanjan and Sgt. Maj. David Caero to honor fallen military service members, as well as presentations from previous ceremonies available for viewing online. 

The Memorial Day Ceremony video will be available to watch on the City of Irvine website. 

Kristina Garcia is a writing fellow for Voice of OC Arts & Culture. She can be reached at kristinamgarcia6@gmail.com.

Crystal Henriquez is an intern for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at crystalh774@gmail.com.

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