The Town Hall meeting scheduled for Monday night at Cypress Park was officially cancelled but that didn’t stop about three dozen Chinese residents of the FivePoint Neighborhood homes near the Great Park from attending what was considered a “private meeting” in a room rented by an unnamed “private individual.” The Chinese residents were greeted by a dozen Veterans from every branch of the service.
The Vets asked, “Are you here for the meeting about the Cemetery?” When the neighbor nodded in the affirmative, the Vets directed them to the correct door with instructions, “down the hall and all the way to the right.”
At the end of the hall, visitors to the Cypress neighborhood clubhouse were greeted by an Irvine City employee, Darin Loughrey, who managed the facility. When we asked, “if this the meeting about the cemetery?” he responded saying that meeting was cancelled and the meeting inside was a private affair. There was no apparent guest list, but in a nutshell, if you were Asian, you got access. If you weren’t Asian, he asked you to leave. We asked who rented the room, and Mr. Loughrey would only say, “a private party rented the room.”
One Irvine resident, a local realtor, did manage to get in and sit down 30 minutes before the start of the meeting and she said Loughrey actually grabbed her red purse as a means of getting her out of her chair so he could get her to leave. It worked. Some of the Asian residents brought their children to the meeting.
It’s unclear who was running the meeting and no one was sure if Mr. Loughrey keeps such late hours. But the Vets and TheLiberalOC were denied access to the meeting. We did a head count at 6:25 PM by walking up to the windowed doors and counted at least 36 people in attendance to discuss the cemetery. Many attending carried fliers promoting the Town Hall meeting in their hands as they walked in. The number of seats prepared for the meeting was well over a hundred.
The Veterans who attended totaled about a dozen. Some wore their colors. All were peaceful and courteous. But what’s clear is how can any sort of “win-win” scenario happen if the Veterans and the neighbors have no means of talking to each other. One Vet there, who asked not to be identified, said he’s tried to speak to the Chinese about why the Cemetery and Memorial needs to be at El Toro and “they won’t budge an inch. There is no compromise. They won’t even listen.”
“I’m 61 and thought I’ve heard it all until I read the OC Register article concerning the proposed Veterans cemetery at the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro where Asian neighbors in the area say the graves of our national military heroes would create bad feng shui and hurt their property values,” said Greg Raths, a member of the Mission Viejo City Council and a retired USMC Colonel. “I spent over 20 years at El Toro serving my country as a fighter pilot. I have literally thousands of takeoffs and landings there, with a handful of emergency landings where the crash and rescue crew saved my life with quick responses. I took off for Operation Desert Storm on runway 07 in 1991and left from runway 34 to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to return to the Middle East for Operation Southern Watch over Iraq sand Restore Hope in Somalia in 1993. On my final flight, when I slip the surly bonds of this earth and touch the face of God, I want my body to rest in peace at the El Toro Cemetery. I promise that I will be a good quiet neighbor for those living in the area.”