Joy Benedict reports from the National Cemetery in Westwood where visitors come to pay their respects, despite some twenty flags being stolen from the grounds.
- Today, Americans are honoring the sacrifice of our fallen heroes, the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country.
- KCAL 9's Joy Benedict live at the National Cemetery in Westwood, where people came to pay their respects. Joy.
JOY BENEDICT: Yeah, Juan, Jasmine. I mean, this is a day that means so much to so many. And it should mean so much to us all as Americans as we remember that ultimate sacrifice that was made by those who have served our country. But we are live right now at the Los Angeles National Cemetery. And I want to show you this road that we're on. You see only two American flags right here. That's because sometime early this morning, about 20 of these flags were actually stolen from this cemetery.
There's an ongoing investigation into that. But the cemetery wanted to make it clear today that they didn't want this to take away from the so many people who come out each and every year to remember those who are lost. The flags waved high as a salute to the fallen, a sacrifice forever etched in stone on the thousands of graves at the Los Angeles National Cemetery.
JOHN LIM: You can't really think about freedom without thinking about, you know, sacrifice.
JOY BENEDICT: John Lim showed up to honor his friend, Captain James Onn, a Green Beret who died on a training mission.
JOHN LIM: One of the best of the best. Apparently, his parachute malfunctioned. Also, there was an issue with his reserve parachute as well. And so he did not make that jump. Ironically, it happened on September 11, 2015.
JOY BENEDICT: And Lim isn't alone. All day long, loved ones came with flowers, lawn chairs, clutching dog tags, and wiping away tears.
JACKIE MALDONADO: October 2014, two days after his birthday.
JOY BENEDICT: Jackie Maldonado showed up to visit her brother, Staff Sergeant Jesus Maldonado. He served this nation in the army for 14 years.
JACKIE MALDONADO: It was self-inflicted. Yeah. Yeah. We believe he had PTSD. Everything just seemed so OK. And it wasn't.
JOY BENEDICT: With every name, every gravestone, there is a story. But what they all have in common is sacrifice.
- They wrote that ultimate blank check of their life, fighting for the freedom of this country.
JOY BENEDICT: There was no official Memorial Day ceremony this year. Some graves never even got flags. But those who came so you don't need a flyover or celebrities to remember.
RICH REINESS: A major thing for me is to walk amongst the graves and see the names of those who are buried here.
JOY BENEDICT: Rich Reiness never served. But he brings his family every year.
RICH REINESS: It's the right thing to do. I want my kids and my grandchildren to understand what the holiday is about and what men have sacrificed-- men and women have sacrificed for this country.
JOY BENEDICT: Sacrifice, honor, and freedom. They are so much more than words for many here today, for they were a way of life for those who never made it home.
JOHN LIM: James, he would, you know, it's worth it. You know, you've got to do the right thing with your life. And I believe he did.
JOY BENEDICT: And that really was the sentiment of so many out here visiting loved ones, that they did the right thing with their lives. I want to pay attention to that flag that flies over the monument there. That is not the original flag, the garrison flag that's 20 by 30 feet long. In fact, that is the flag that was also stolen early this morning, sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 AM. That's when investigators are looking into that flag being taken down.
It is so big that they believe it took more than one person to be able to lower that flag and then take it away. So that's the big flag that was stolen plus 20 more of these smaller flags that lined the avenue that I'm standing on right now. Such a brazen crime on such an important day. But again, everybody here wanted to make it clear that they just replaced the flags and they went on with Memorial Day because they didn't want to take away from the families who come here each and every year. I'll send it back to you guys.
- Absolutely. Did not deter them from coming out. And every name, Joy, you said it has a story. Thank you for sharing some of theirs.