A tradition of honoring fallen heroes: our veterans

Mike Jusino was serving in the Marine Corps when he was told his cousin, Reinaldo Ortiz, had died in Vietnam. Ortiz was more like a brother than a cousin, and every year since his death, Jusino comes to the Golden Gate National Cemetery to visit him. 
“I know how lonely it is to be in a war situation,” said Jusino.  “When you come home, you want to see your family. Even if they don’t see him, his spirit does.”

Jusino was also sent to the War in Vietnam in 1965. He was also put on the funeral detail, which he said was the hardest part of his military service. 

“I was escorting a gentleman to New York, a 20 year-old,” said Jusino. 

“The family adopted me as their son. It was the hardest eight days I ever spent in the marine corps, even in Vietnam.”

Jusino said Reinaldo’s parents died shortly after he did and he did not have any photographs of his beloved cousin. 

“When I got home, they said six months you’ll forget it. It’s been 52 years and it’s never gone away. 52 years.” 

Earlier in the morning, the annual Memorial Day ceremony was held at the cemetery. It featured speeches by one of the original “Rosie The Riveters,” Madge Fordyce, who is now 95 years-old. 

She spoke about going to work for the war effort while her husband was a POW in Germany for 16 months. 

The admiral of chief Navy operations also talked about the sacrifices made by service members and their families.  

“I remember my dad, it would be time for him to go,” said Admiral John M. Richardson. 

“I was the oldest of six. My mom would gather us all there in the living room and he’d be in his uniform with his sea bag. He’d take off and be gone for the next three or four months at sea. My mom had to carry on for all that time.” 

Army veteran Tom Miller showed up to the ceremony by himself. He said he comes to remember a friend he served with, Lonnie Malone of Kentucky, who he hasn’t seen since 1974. 

“All he wanted to do was go home and hunt and fish. Go home and see his mom,” said Miller.

“I said that when I get out, I’d go and see him. And I broke that promise and that was over 40 years ago. If I knew he was alive, I’d get on a plane from San Francisco and go and see him.”