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Thousands visit Lakewood veterans memorial

Thousands visit Lakewood veterans memorial

Lakewood put the airplane back into “Airplane Park” at two special Memorial Day events. An estimated 5,000 residents and guests welcomed Del Valle Park’s unofficial namesake, a Douglas F3D-2 “Skyknight” fighter, back to its pedestal as part of midday ceremonies commemorating men and women who died while in military service.

At a second event that evening, 2,000 people saw the park’s centerpiece light up as part of the city’s renovated and expanded veterans memorial.

Many in attendance had purchased one or more of 1,500 engraved bricks, featuring the name of veterans and Lakewood community members and groups. Bricks can still be purchased and installed later this year. Click for order form and click for FAQs.

Mementos commemorating Lakewood’s Veterans Memorial Plaza and the return of the Del Valle jet plane can be purchased at

The memorial, designed in the theme of an aircraft carrier flight deck, featured impressive night lighting that glowed off the freshly repainted and refurbished plane.

Memorial Day visitors were entertained by several fly-overs by four T-6 World War II and Korean War propeller planes, and remarks from the son of a Marine Corps aviation hero who helped dedicate the Del Valle jet plane when it first came to Lakewood in 1959. In line with its historic theme, the program featured keynote speakers from different eras of military service.

Commander Steve Murray of American Legion Post 496 served as master of ceremonies at both events. The Disabled American Veterans Chapter 19, Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Post 8615 and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 756 all took part in the events.

Resident and Vietnam veteran Bill Clapp spoke first, followed by Lakewood-raised Afghanistan veteran Ethan Costin, with final remarks from Alexys Quiroz, the commanding cadet of Lakewood High School’s Navy Junior ROTC program. She will soon be entering the service via the ROTC program as part of her college education. Speakers discussed the meaning of their past (or future) service and the significance of the memorial.

Lakewood Mayor Jeff Wood spoke at each event and commented that the jet refurbishment “became a labor of love to build something that would honor our veterans in a powerful and special way. It’s a memorial with the same enduring purpose we’ve always had in Lakewood. And that’s to remember and honor the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.”

Musical entertainment was provided by the Golden Sands Chorus of Sweet Adeline's International, an all-female a cappella group based in Lakewood. The 30 members of the chorus at Memorial Day sang the National Anthem, America the Beautiful, and the Armed Forces Salute, which is a medley of the service songs of all five military branches.

A video of the morning Memorial Day program produced by Lakewood CityTV can be seen starting June 3 at and on channel 31 on Time Warner and Verizon FiOS. Photos of the morning and evening event can be viewed, emailed and downloaded for free starting June 3 at

For more information on the memorial and to learn how you can still order a memorial brick go to or call Lakewood city staff at 562-866-9771, extension 2140.

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