A beer garden, a War Dog aircraft darting through the skies and nostalgic ’80s rock music made the Veterans Day celebration on Saturday in North Long Beach feel like it was straight out of “Top Gun.”
The event kicked off around noon at Houghton Park’s Veterans Valor Plaza with a presentation of the flag by Lakewood High School’s color guard, followed by the Star-Spangled Banner.
“It feels great to be here to honor those that have served and those that will serve,” said Ryan Tolson, a senior at Lakewood High School and member of its Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
Army veteran Steve Keesal was recognized at the event by Councilmember Rex Richardson and other community representatives for his work serving both the country and his community. Keesal was also selected as this year’s Grand Marshal.
“I’m so humbled to be here today,” he said. Joey King, another community volunteer, was also honored at the event.
Late former North Long Beach councilmember and U.S. Coast Guard veteran Val Lerch, who was honored during the 2021 celebration, was also briefly remembered this year for the work he did for veterans. A portrait of Lerch in his service uniform has since been added to a mural at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Harding Street celebrating Long Beach veterans.
“He was instrumental in getting a lot of veterans, especially young veterans, connected in this community,” said Gus Orozco, co-organizer of the event and Veterans Affairs Commissioner.
The event didn’t feature its traditional parade for the third year in a row, with organizers instead opting to provide community service opportunities and more physical activities and events for families, which Orozco said appeared to generate more interest from the younger veterans.
Support our journalism.
Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.