The streets around Houghton Park’s Veterans Valor Plaza in North Long Beach stood quiet Saturday. Two years ago, the Veteran’s Day parade rolled down the streets near the park with crowds waving and cheering from the sidewalk as a motorcade of vehicles sporting American flags and military memorabilia drove by.
The COVID-19 pandemic shut down those in-person celebrations in 2020, but on Saturday, music and live performances from school marching bands brought the Veterans Day festivities back to North Long Beach.
The event was hosted to honor former North Long Beach councilmember and U.S. Coast Guard veteran Val Lerch, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2020 and is currently in hospice care, according to his family.
Lerch received recognition for his work in the community and for veterans from North Long Beach councilman Rex Richardson and other local representatives.
A mural at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Harding Street celebrating Long Beach veterans will be updated to include a portrait of Lerch in his service uniform, according to Richardson’s office.
The festival offered guests food trucks and live musical performances from the Rock for Vets band. ROTC members from Cabrillo High School performed a rife drill and the Jordan High School marching band played for the attendees.
The festival also helped connect veterans in the crowd with military support groups such as the U.S. Vets Long Beach, the Veteran Peer Access Network and other health-focused organizations.