Lawmaker, Former Miramar Marine, Serves As SoCal Veterans Day Parade Grand Marshal

Veterans Day grand marshal
State Sen. Caroline Menjivar. Photo credit: sd20.senate.ca.gov

Thousands lined the route of the San Fernando Valley Veterans Day Parade Saturday, billed by organizers as Los Angeles County’s largest veterans’ event.

The parade began at 11:11 a.m. at the corner of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and San Fernando Mission Boulevard in Mission Hills, and proceeded south on Laurel Canyon Boulevard for 1.1 miles to Ritchie Valens Park.

Sen. Caroline Menjivar, D-Panorama City, was the grand marshal.

Menjivar served in the Marine Corps from 2009-16, enlisting when she was 20, shortly after receiving an associate’s degree in fire technology from Los Angeles Valley College. She had hoped to be a Los Angeles firefighter, but a hiring freeze prompted delayed that plan.

“When I was in high school, I was part of the Police Academy Magnet where our main teacher was a Marine veteran,” Menjivar, a Reseda High School graduate, told City News Service in an email interview before the parade. “Each time we ran, we would run to a Marine Corps cadence. We would do mini-obstacle courses copied after the courses Marine recruits had to complete.

“He spoke about the camaraderie, the physicality needed to be a Marine, and the fact that they were known as the best. I wanted to be part of that, I wanted to be ready for the fire department when they started hiring again, and I loved being on teams, so I joined the Marine Corps.”

Menjivar was mainly stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego and served as a radio operator and platoon sergeant. She was briefly stationed at Camp Pendleton where she also worked as a military police officer.

Menjivar was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal and twice awarded the Marine Corps Reserve Medal.

What asked what she learned in the Corps, Menjivar responded, “It’s all relative! When I think about boot camp, when I think about all the things I did while in the Corps, nothing seems as hard as what I went through.

“Those 10-mile hikes, out in the field without showering, standing at attention under the sun, working out all the time, getting screamed out, sleepless nights, really early mornings, and `hurry up and wait,’ is the bar I compare everything to.

“I am very flexible, I can adjust on the spot, I can be in uncomfortable situations, I can work forever, I follow direction, I’m a team player and, overall, the leadership skills I’ve learned are invaluable.”

Menjivar called “wearing the uniform, especially the dress blues,” the highlight of her Marine Corps service.

“The camaraderie is what I miss the most, which is why I will light up each time I am around another Marine,” Menjivar said. “I loved being at the shooting range, shooting all types of weapons, throwing grenades, but my favorite was practicing with a an M249 light machine gun.

“It definitely didn’t hurt to be a sergeant in charge of about 50 Marines and leading their daily schedules, especially as a woman. It did feel badass.”

Menjivar said her service in the Marine Corps “made me the person I am today.”

“The Marine Corps saved my life,” she said. “I was dealing with familial issues, trying to find a place to land, to feel part of something bigger and Marine Corps did just that.

“It was the best decision I could have made. I got to work with all types of people from across the country and now have friends in every corner of the states. Marines, no matter if we’ve never met will always be there for each other, because we are `Semper Fidelis.”‘

Veterans Day ceremonies in Azusa and Redondo Beach were among 66 nationwide selected by the Veterans Day National Committee as regional sites recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans Day has its roots in a proclamation issued by President Woodrow Wilson in November 1919, a year after World War I ended, designating Nov. 11 as Armistice Day.

In his Veterans Day proclamation, President Joe Biden declared, “This Veterans Day, we honor the generations of women and men who have served and sacrificed – not for a person, a place or a president – but for an idea unlike any other: the idea of the United States of America.

– City News Service