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Memorial Day events to honor fallen military

San Diego's rich military history is providing many opportunities for Memorial Day observances, from the deck of the USS Midway Museum to ceremonies north and south.

San Diego County is the top destination for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Midway officials say, and has the third-highest resident veteran population in the country.

• The USS Midway’s annual tradition of Legacy Week will begin Friday with a veterans' hiring fair with about two dozen employers. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is organized by the American Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit that connects unemployed veterans and those transitioning from active duty with civilian jobs.

The museum's wreath ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday to honor the nation's fallen veterans.

World War II veterans and active-duty military personnel will drop biodegradable wreaths over the ship’s side.

The consul general of France in Los Angeles, Axel Cruau, will be a special guest speaker, said Scott McGaugh, the museum's director of marketing.

The official’s appearance was arranged to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied landing at Normandy in World War II.

"He's going to be thanking San Diego and San Diego veterans of the greatest generation," McGaugh said.

Admission to the museum is free to attend the wreath ceremony, and for certain other events during the weekend.

Legacy Week will include the Adventure Discovery Zone for kids Saturday, Sunday and Monday; the U.S. Navy Band concert at 1 p.m. Sunday; and the annual San Diego Blood Bank drive Monday.

Also Monday, the American Legion Post 492 will hold its Memorial Day ceremony aboard the museum at 1:30 p.m. On Sunday and Monday, museum visitors can attend “Meet the Aviators,” an event featuring veterans who have flown the aircraft aboard the floating museum.

Memorial Day weekend will be the first major holiday since the USS Midway began its corporate sponsorship efforts a few months ago, said Craig Fisher, the museum's director of partnership marketing.

A major corporate sponsor of this year's Legacy Week is the management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

• Miramar National Cemetery will host a Memorial Day ceremony at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Brig. Gen. John W. Bullard Jr., Commanding General, Marine Corps Installations West, Camp Pendleton, is this year's keynote speaker. He commanded the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit during two deployments to Iraq. He also served as Commander of NATO Headquarters Sarajevo in support of United Nations operations in 2009-2010.

Guest speaker Bradley Phillips, executive director of Memorial Service Network V, will welcome participants on behalf of the National Cemetery Administration, which oversees operations at Miramar National Cemetery. NCA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The memorial service will feature the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band, conducted by Staff Sgt. Monica Preston; a U.S. Navy League Sea Cadets color guard; and a special presentation of "Taps" with a remote bugler. Navy Lt. Daniel J. McGrath, chaplain of the USS Essex (LHD 2), will offer the invocation and benediction.

Sponsored by the Miramar National Cemetery Support Foundation, the service will be conducted in the cemetery’s Memorial Circle at the eastern end of the Avenue of Flags. Free public parking will be available on cemetery streets.

• The 114th annual service at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery will begin at 10 a.m. Monday, and could draw up to 3,000, said Adele Adams, Fort Rosecrans' administrative officer. The service will include speakers and a traditional color guard program.

Admission is free, but attendance is expected to exceed the 2,000 chairs that are available. A free shuttle service has been arranged for those parking offsite.

• The Veterans Museum and Memorial Center in Balboa Park will hold events hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 472, honoring San Diego veterans killed or missing in action.

A continuous reading of honored names will begin at 7:45 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m. Also from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, and from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Monday, after which an official Memorial Day program will begin with a presentation of the nation's colors, the national anthem and guest speakers. The ceremony will end about 10 a.m.

• Rear Adm. Bruce L. Gillingham, commander of Navy Medicine West, will give the keynote address at Memorial Day observances at La Vista Memorial Park on Orange Street in National City. The event will begin at 1 p.m. Monday, and will include patriotic and other music from the U.S. Navy Band Southwest and a presentation of the Navy’s symbolic “two-bell ceremony” honoring war dead.

Carnation Chapter 3 of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association will perform the bell ceremony.

The 82nd Airborne Division, San Diego Chapter, will present full military honors and the parading of the colors will be performed by the Naval Medical Center, San Diego's command color guard.

The La Vista event will include free food and beverages, an aerialist performance and a mini-zoo and pony rides for children, according to a news release from the city.

Gillingham will be joined by guest speakers Christopher Lawrence and Mark Zambon, both combat-wounded veterans, the news release said. Command Master Chief Hosea Smith Jr. and retired Command Master Chief Kathleen Hansen will introduce the speakers.

National City Mayor Ron Morrison will offer a welcome.

• A ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at the Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial, where a plaque will be added to the monument to honor Navy Cross recipient Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta.

Serving in Operation Phantom Fury in Iraq as an infantry platoon guide in 2004, Peralta, 25, led fellow Marines through a series of house clearings before charging into a fourth house. He found two rooms empty on the ground floor, but upon opening a third door, was hit multiple times with gunfire.

According to reports, Peralta protected fellow Marines, trapped with him inside the room, by pulling himself over a grenade that had been thrown in their direction.

Two of the Marines who were saved by Peralta's actions will speak in his honor: Robert Reynolds, who works as a correction officer in the Spokane, Wash.; and Nick Jones, a member of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Members of Peralta’s family will attend and Brig. Gen. James W. Bierman Jr., commanding general for Marine Corps Recruit Depot/Western Recruiting Region, will deliver the keynote address.

All five of San Diego County's congressional representatives will attend, as well as San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, City Councilmember Sherri Lightner and County Supervisor Dave Roberts.

The MCRD Marine Band Brass Quintet, MCRD Color Guard and Rifle Team, and La Jolla Country Day Madrigal Singers will take part in the ceremony. The San Diego T-34 Performance Team will fly over in the “missing man” formation.

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