A busy street corner in Westchester will once again pay tribute to the fallen
By Gary Walker
Westchester teen Kirk Fujimoto was well on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout, the highest level of achievement in the Boy Scouts of America. He just needed to complete a meaningful public service project — only he was stumped about what to do. That’s when assistant scoutmaster Ed Griffin, an LAPD detective, offered a plan to simultaneously beautify a prominent public space in Westchester and honor fallen military service members.
“I told him that it wouldn’t be easy — that it would be the most ambitious thing the troop has ever done, and the one that would have the biggest impact,” Griffin recalled. “He worked over Easter break, a time when most kids are on vacation or just taking it easy.”
In just a few weeks, 17-year-old Fujimoto raised over $4,000 to replace dilapidated flagpole bases at the southeast corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Manchester Avenue, in front of Westchester Park. He also organized fellow Troop 927 scouts to re-landscape the corner.
At 1 p.m. Saturday, May 27, Troop 927 will rededicate the space — formerly the site of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of Westchester/Playa del Rey — in honor
of fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. Following the ceremony, Fujimoto’s troop will host a community barbeque near the flagpoles.
Photos of a Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11, 1970, show a concrete memorial, a sundial and two concrete benches in front of a flagpole at the corner of Lincoln and Manchester. The city later relocated the memorial plaque and sundial to the Westchester Community Building after the memorial was vandalized numerous times.
Finding a relatively barren corner 46 years later, Fujimoto and his troop created a garden of drought-tolerant plants to add a touch of color to the site — “65 plants, all in one day,” Fujimoto said.
Griffin thinks creating the garden and raising funds for the flagpole bases had a strong, positive effect on his Eagle Scout candidate.
“I remember him turning around and gazing at [the flag poles], and I thought he seemed really impressed with what he had done,” Griffin said.
“I guess I was a little bit [surprised] to see the work right in front of me. It was a lot of work in a short time,” said Fujimoto, who lost an uncle in the Vietnam War.
In addition to family members, Fujimoto acquired funding from the Drollinger Foundation in Westchester, Elks Lodge 2050 in Playa del Rey and American Legion Post 177 in Venice. Post 177 had donated $500 to Troop 927 in April, but threw in another $500 after Fujimoto presented the project to its board in May.
“This project reflects well on the veterans, so we were happy to do it,” said Post 177’s Tom Zvanovec.
Prior to the Saturday rededication ceremony, Troop 927 will travel to Inglewood Park Cemetery to lay flags on the graves of armed services veterans.