There was a call to remember, to reflect and to never forget.
The 74th annual Memorial Day observance at Woodlawn Cemetery was filled with emotional tributes and special remembrances.
Hundreds gathered to hear speeches, observe the posting of the colors and hear Taps performed by Santa Monica High School student Eli Brown. The crowd clapped during a flyover of a Douglas DC3 and sang along as the Santa Monica Oceanaires harmonized during the group’s renditions of songs, including "You’re a Grand Old Flag" and "God Bless America."
"The nearly 1.4 million souls deserve our remembrance, our respect and our thanks," Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom said of the American servicemembers who have died in war.
Lt. Col. Douglas Woodhams, who is now a Santa Monica police officer, reflected on his own tours of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan and lamented the friends he lost along the way. He also spoke of local soldiers who paid the "ultimate sacrifice," he said.
Santa Monica City Councilman Bob Holbrook gave the keynote speech in which he reflected on growing up in Santa Monica during World War II.
"I remember we walked everywhere," Holbrook recalled since gas was only intermittently available. "I think we couldn’t get gas for cars."
He told of the days when there was an army camp at Fifth Street and Ocean Park Boulevard where British flyers were stationed. He also recalled an amusement area at Ocean Park Pier, and the days when a milk and ice man stopped by houses in Santa Monica to make deliveries.
Many of his family members were veterans and Holbrook spent time as a member of the California Air National Guard.
"All the men in my family survived World War II," he told the crowd. "Many of you could tell stories of family and friends who fought for our freedom."
Before calling for a moment of silence, Holbrook said he plans to ask the Santa Monica City Council to create a memorial listing the names of local veterans.
"We thank you, and we will never forget you," Holbrook said.
What became Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868 as Decoration Day, a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Civil War dead with flowers.
It was established 25 days earlier by Maj. Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of veterans who fought for the Union in the Civil War. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the nation.
By the end of the 19th century, Decoration Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. After World War I, the holiday was changed to honor Americans who died fighting in all wars.
— City News Service contributed to this report.