CROWDS SALUTE WAR DEAD CEREMONIES PAY TRIBUTE ON MEMORIAL DAY.
With a color guard and patriotic songs, hundreds attended a Memorial Day service Monday at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park Hollywood Hills to honor America's fallen servicemen and women.
About 800 people packed the forecourt of the Birth of Liberty mosaic at the park on a hillside overlooking the San Fernando Valley.
``They gave their lives - the ultimate sacrifice - in defense of freedom,'' said Maj. Gen. Peter J. Gravett, commanding officer of the 40th Infantry Division of the National Guard. ``Even though they are gone, we don't forget them.''
The event paid tribute to the fallen heroes with John Phillip Sousa marches, the posting and presentation of the colors, and a reading of President George W. Bush's Memorial Day proclamation by Glendale Mayor Gus Gomez.
Just before the event, World War II-era fighter planes passed in formation overhead.
For many, the event brought out deep emotions.
World War II prisoner of war James Hill, 79, came to the event with his wife. It was the first Memorial Day service the Burbank man has attended.
``I can't handle taps,'' said an emotional Hill, who as an Army sergeant was captured by German forces in December 1944 on the first day of the Battle of the Bulge.
``I saw too many casualties. I had it rough ... but, my God, my contribution was nothing compared to those guys that went in D-Day.''
A colorful mosaic depicting scenes from great chapters along the trail to American freedom, such as the Boston Tea Party and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, stood behind the band and the panel of speakers.
A 21-gun salute by Los Angeles' Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, California Army National Guard, and the playing of taps by the 40th Infantry Division Band followed.
Other Memorial Day events took place Monday across Southern California.
Throngs gathered at Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village for a Memorial Day ceremony at which World War II vintage planes flew a ``missing man'' formation, the traditional salute to a squadron member who didn't make it back.
In Los Angeles, Gov. Gray Davis spoke at the Los Angeles National Cemetery's 112th annual Memorial Day event.
In Long Beach, residents attended a service where World War II Air Force Lt. William B. Ellis, a Tuskegee airman, 332 Fighter Wing, 99 Fighter Squadron, spoke.
(1 -- 2) Patti Montgomery and granddaughter, 4, Devin, above, center, attend Memorial Day services in Westlake Village. At left, Russian army WWII veteran Shursky Arkday salutes during an observance at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park Hollywood Hills.
Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
Phil McCarten/Staff Photographer