Right now, hundreds of volunteers are in the middle of preparations for a major annual Memorial Day service in Fullerton. Thousands of people attend the service at Loma Vista Memorial Park in Fullerton.
Ed Paul of the American Veterans Memorial Association never left California during his service in the Vietnam War. Organizing the annual memorial is his way, he says, of giving back.
"Every year one or two Vietnam vets say to me, 'I finally feel like my service was honored after all these years," Paul said.
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For Paul, Memorial Day is a solemn ceremony that starts with numbers.
The effort takes a full week to set up. Nearly 500 volunteers iron and put up 3,800 flags. They sweep grave markers, paint and repair crosses.
The event started in 1939. That year, 50 flags and crosses were placed on the graves of veterans. Now the number of deceased vets grows by hundreds each year.
It's meaningful for many who attend. Buck Catlin, a retired naval commander who played the bugle at an early ceremony some 50 years ago, has reached out to many veterans' families over the years.
"I see a young child stand on a grandfather’s grave as his mother explains the history -- and the tradition counts," Catlin said.