This year, Memorial Day was commemorated at PCC on Thursday May 23, at the school’s Memorial Wall. The sound of a bagpipe accompanied the event, as five speakers honored the memories of those who lost their lives in war.

PCC Chief of Police Steven Matchan’s speech was dedicated to all the men and women who died in war and what that means for all of us.

“Sometimes we take for granted all the things we are able to do in this country and forget who made it possible. I was in the military myself,” said Matchan. “I knew what I was doing when I was there, and the ultimate goal, really is not only to serve our country and its interests, but to make other people’s lives better.”

He wanted to remind everybody that these soldiers sacrificed themselves, but they were people before, and the fact that they were alive should be celebrated; they were contributing to society, they were living among us, they were our friends, our uncles, and aunts, brothers and sisters, and moms and dads. He encouraged people not to forget that, and to do what they wanted us to do, which is to enjoy the freedoms that they died for. He said that once we start doing that, we not only honor them, but we also remember them, because they signed up to provide American society a better life, and to protect that.  

“I’ve been all over the world, I’ve been overseas, I’ve seen a lot, and I do think we still do have the greatest country in the world. And that’s why everybody wants to come here,” said Matchan. “To enjoy the freedoms, to enjoy each other, and that’s why I concluded my speech saying; love your country, love your veterans, love your military, but love one another, because that’s what’s going to carry us on forever.”

Sandra Chen Lau is on the PCC board of trustees. She is one of the people who sets the policy and vision for the entire college district. Together, Chen Lau and the board oversee whether PCC is going in the right direction with its policies and programs, and they share governance with the president and the faculty.

“I feel that it’s important that we recognize in our busy, daily life that we are able to do that because of other people’s sacrifices. The freedom that we experience here is afforded to us because many of the folks have dedicated their lives or have given their lives for our freedom.” said Chen Lau.

Chen Lau said that she’s reminded that not everyone gets to do that when she drives her kids to school, or goes to work, and even while serving on the board. She thinks that we should also recognize and acknowledge the families whose daughters, sons, fathers, and mothers have made the ultimate sacrifice in war.

To her it’s important that as a community college, they are committed to the success of  veteran students. Lau feels that in many ways it’s a small commitment on her part to contribute to what they have done.

“In the last twelve years, the majority of people killed in the military, about a thousand a year who get killed or die, have not been at war. They are dead by other causes,” said Dr. Harold Martin, PCC psychology professor and veteran. “Being in the military, even when you’re not in war in countries like Afghanistan, or Syria, or Iraq is still a dangerous line of work.”

Martin took a moment to remember soldier John England, who graduated from PCC the spring before he died during the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

Martin thinks that the country has to be very respectful of veterans’ lives, and make sure that they don’t endanger them anymore than they already are and that we owe it to them to make sure that if they are put in harm’s way, that is only as a last resort, and it’s absolutely necessary. Martin believes that another way of honoring them is by living purposeful and meaningful lives, and not squander this gift that we all enjoy that they were deprived and denied of.

“It would be a very sad insult to their memory if we don’t appreciate what we have and don’t have gratitude.” said Martin.

Masataka Asaoka was a soldier for 16 months. He had a fully honorable discharge, but actually when he was in Texas, he developed anxiety and depression. He started his speech with the army’s credo.

“I am a warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States, and live the army values.” said Asaoka.

When he first went to Texas, he was training with the combat engineers for three months.

“When you are a soldier, you put what you have to do first, and you pretty much put the duty above morals.” said Asaoka.

Pasadena City College has over 700 veterans, and it has been serving them since World War II. It was one of the first colleges to open a Veteran Resource Center in the recent wars, and the second in the nation to create a transition course for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

“Memorial Day ceremony is always very impressive; it is to honor those that died for our country, and that allows us to have the liberties that we have here in the U.S.” said Patricia D’Orange-Martin, coordinator of the Veteran Resource Center. “These young men and women decided to join [the army] and protect America, and thank God that we have people who want to do that. So, when they come back as veterans, we want to honor that, and we want to help them. And those who died, we want to honor their big sacrifice for our country.”

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