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San Diegans commemorate Memorial Day on USS Midway

In a special San Diego tradition, dozens gathered Monday on the USS Midway aircraft carrier turned museum to honor the men and women who gave their lives for their country

Among the speakers was Vice Adm. Steve Koehler, U.S. Navy Commander, 3rd Fleet.

"Today we commemorate more than 1.2 million men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice," Koehler said. "Today we remember that freedom isn’t free and the American way of life and the democracy that enables it must be guarded with unremitting vigilance, and each of those brave Americans served a cause greater than themselves."

Mayor Todd Gloria paid a special tribute to Capt. Jennifer Moreno, a native San Diegan. She was an Army nurse who served and died in Afghanistan in 2013 and the first woman to have a VA Medical Center named after her.

"An explosion happened near her, and, like these brave souls do, she ran towards the explosion," Gloria said. "Sadly, as she was rendering aid, another improvised explosive device exploded and killed her. She’s a San Diegan, she will always be a San Diegan. She represents the very best of our community."

Gloria, Koehler, and a young Girl Scout participated in the traditional wreath ceremony. The silence was interrupted by a man who shouted the lyrics of the famous anti-war song "War (What Is It Good For?)"

The ceremony ended with the missing man formation flyover and "Taps," the song played at the funerals of the fallen. It is a song that many, such as Capt. Jacob Richard Morgan, have heard so many times they lost count.

Morgan served in three wars — World War II, Korea and Vietnam. While he was celebrating his 96th birthday today, to him this day is about something bigger.

"Losing friends, especially my best buddy in Korea and a lot of other, you know, brave people who sacrificed and gave it all, so that’s what it means to me," Morgan said.

Outside the USS Midway, another tribute was held to honor the fallen. Volunteers with the organization San Diego Veterans for peace read names aloud. A somber bell tolled after each name was read.

"By reading the names, I think that’s probably the greatest tribute we can do. That way they are not forgotten and they are recognized for what they’ve done," said Jim Brown, a retired U.S. Marine and president of San Diego Veterans for Peace.

"Hunter Lopez, 22 years old, August 26, 2021, from old Indio, California Corporal United States Marine Corps," shouted a volunteer. Lopez was among the 13 military service members who died in Kabul as operations in Afghanistan came to an end.