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U.S. sailors take a Memorial Day turn on L.A.’s 6th Street Bridge

Street runners, social media influencers and lovebirds helped make the 6th Street Bridge a citywide gathering place after the resurfaced viaduct opened two years ago.

On Memorial Day, hundreds of sailors dressed in their bright white uniforms and caps took their turns on deck.

Los Angeles’ newest landmark, which connects the city’s Arts District and Boyle Heights, hosted a public Fleet Week event for some 500 sailors from the USS Carl Vinson, a nuclear-powered ship docked in San Diego .

There were performances by a Marine Corps band from the 1st Division, as well as speeches, including one from local city councilman Kevin de León and a moment of silence for service members killed in the line of duty. The sailors walked a length of the deck before standing quietly.

Although the crowds were small, later in the afternoon the sailors – many of them in their late teens or early 20s – wandered the enclosed deck and the food trucks that served pizza and street tacos.

A few sailors took turns going back and forth on motorbikes on the deck under the radiant sun. At another point, one of them appeared with a box of Coors under his arm and handed out cans.

For some members of the group, it was their first trip to Los Angeles. Sailors, in interviews with The Times, talked about eating in Little Tokyo or visiting a Korean spa.

People in white uniforms throw sailor caps into the air.

Sailors from the USS Carl Vinson gather on the 6th Street Bridge.

(Dakota Smith/Los Angeles Times)

Carmela Bermudez, 19, a Navy technician, sat on a bulkhead next to her boyfriend, Kadin Brewer, 18, who is also in the Navy. Brewer handles bombs and munitions.

“The bridge looks awesome,” Brewer said. “The curves…and it’s super long.”

“I’d rather be here than on the ship,” Bermudez said.

Memorial Day is linked to the Civil War, first celebrated in remembrance of the soldiers who lost their lives, then in broader remembrance of those who died in service to the nation.

The 6th Street Bridge event was one of several Fleet Week gatherings in Los Angeles neighborhoods this year, part of the Navy’s efforts to raise awareness of its work.

The viaduct reopened in 2022, replacing a popular Streamline Moderne bridge that suffered from what engineers called “concrete cancer” that continually left it in ruins.

People in white uniforms stand in several rows on a road.

The sailors stand on the 6th Street Bridge.

(Ryan Sun/Associated Press)

After the bridge reopened, drag racers and daredevils who scaled the bridge arches made headlines. Today, copper wire thefts in the region remain a problem.

At the same time, the bridge continued to host cycling events and concerts.

Richard Meyer, deputy commander of the Navy’s 3rd Fleet, called the bridge a “renewed icon” for Los Angeles during a brief speech.

He drew a contrast between the bridge and the ocean, emphasizing that both are routes for transferring trade. The Navy, he added, helps protect the ocean’s waterways.

Rows of sailors standing across a vast expanse.

Sailors from the USS Carl Vinson.

(Ryan Sun/Associated Press)

The USS Carl Vinson leaves the port of Los Angeles Monday evening. The ship is named after U.S. Representative Carl Vinson (D-Georgia), who helped develop the Navy and was an ardent segregationist.

Adalhi Montes, 34, came from Long Beach for the event but said he was surprised by the lack of participation. “Honestly, I wish there were more people here,” Montes said.

Two friends, Kay Pegram, 70, and Leslie Carlson, 80, went out after hearing about the event on the radio. Both of their fathers served in the military.

The friends live in Hollenback Palms, a retirement community in Boyle Heights, and call the bridge “our bridge.” They frequently pass through it to dine in the arts district, they said.

Both said they were frustrated by the theft of copper wires on the bridge, which is no longer lit at night — as it was when it debuted two years ago.

“I wish they had more stuff on the bridge,” Carlson said, recalling the parties after the bridge reopened.

As the band finished “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Pegram shouted, “Come on, Dodgers!”

A few people in white uniforms are sitting on a concrete barrier.

Sailors from the USS Carl Vinson sit on a railing of the 6th Street Bridge.

(Ryan Sun/Associated Press)

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