Despite sweltering noon day temps, a big crowd swelled around the small Veteran’s Historical Plaza in Newhall Friday, joining elected officials in honoring military veterans on the one day devoted to them.
Two white-haired vets who braved temperatures edging near 90F, 20 degrees above the seasonal norm, suffered some ill effects of the heat Tuesday, one of them was ushered by volunteers to the coolness of the shade and another was treated by paramedics and taken from the ceremony by ambulance.
The heat, however, did not dissuade several other old soldiers, many in uniform, from braving the extreme temperature.
Veteran’s Day 2016 began quietly with a minute of silence in honor of the service of veterans to their country, with a special acknowledge by Master of Ceremonies Ted Olsen for Duane Harte, the retired U.S. Navy Quartermaster Senior Chief Petty Officer who, for years, came to represent SCV ceremonies honoring vets.
Harte died a year ago of a heart attack at age 68.
Rabbi Mark Blazer led a prayer asking that we be moved to “noble patriotism” and that vets be protected when “they put themselves in harm’s way.”
With about a hundred attendees seated on white chairs in the center of the oval-shaped park on Market Street, and with scores more draped around its outer rim, attendees applauded the national anthem sung by Celena McMahon and “America The Beautiful,” sung by SCV’s Men Of Harmony.
Many attendees, including several older veterans who were helped to their feet by others, stood in honor of the changing of the flags carried out by the Knights of Columbus Santa Clarita Assembly and the Vietnam Veterans of America.
This year’s veteran speaker was Command Sergeant Major CSM Edward O. Littleton who – drawing from his own 43 years of military service – honored vets of all types who served in a variety of conflicts over more than a half century.
“Most of my generation never knew an extended peace,” he said. “We are children of war.”
Littleton recalled, as a child, seeing veterans return from war with “gaunt, somber and sober expressions.”
He singled out those vets who served on submarines, those who swept for mines and those who witnessed the explosion of a hydrogen bomb as just some of the vast types of service given to the country.
“And, I’ve seen homeless vets, with no shelter, sleeping in cardboard boxes and eating garbage,” he said, in closing.
“We have to honor all vets,” Littleton said. “We must not forget our veterans for the service they gave.”
One group of vets singled out were those still listed as missing in action.
An empty chair by a small table at the front of the stage was explained by Robert Heinisch as the table MIA vets are unable to sit at but who should not be forgotten.
City of Santa Clarita Councilmember Marsh McLean recognized “Gold Star Families,” who have suffered the loss of a serving relative.
“The families are the brave ones,” she said. “To live without their loved ones.”
City of Santa Clarita Councilmember Laurene Weste also recognized the families of service members, listing the local sacrifices made in each military conflict since the First World War when fewer than 2,000 people lived in the Santa Clarita Valley. “We lost between six and 16 young men in that war,” she said.
Weste asked family members of veterans to stand and, when they did so, she told them: “It is our job to sustain you.”
Mayor Pro Tem Dante Acosta invited veterans representing each branch of the military to stand – US Army, US Navy, United States Marine Corps and the US Coast Guard. “This is about recognizing those who defended our liberty.”
And, just after Pastor Andre Veluzat closed the ceremonies with a benediction calling on God “to honor those who have honored and protected us,” City of Santa Clarita Councilmember TimBen Boydston invited everyone over to the American Legion Hall near the library for a barbecue lunch and a chance to share some one-on-one time with veterans.
As the event came to an end, it was hard to imagine attendees not reflecting on the story told to them by Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar when he was a boy who lived in Panorama City – a story he said he’s told more than once but worth repeating on Veterans Day.
Mayor Bob Kellar
“I remember bugging my mom, saying ‘I gotta get a job, I’m 16 years old,’” he said, telling how he eventually landed a job at a grocery store.
“There was a gentleman I used to see two or three times a week who would come through the checkout stand and I got to know him. He was Mr. Rose.
“And, Mr. Rose was probably in his mid to latter 60s, very, very nice gentleman. But, you know, he had – if I may say, a bit of disability, a challenge if you will – his hands were like to two flapjacks. He couldn’t make a fist.
“I was always happy to help Mr. Rose if I could. And then one day he asked me, he said ‘Bob, you know I have the dry cleaners across the street and it’s kind of hard for me to clean the racks so, I was wondering if i could get you to come over to clean the racks on Saturday.
“I said ‘You know, sir, I’d be more than happy to do it.’ I got over there and cleaned all the racks. He wanted to give me five dollars and I said ‘no.’
“Time went on and I was over there again, cleaning the racks and we get to visiting a little bit and it came up that he had been in the service and he told me that he had served in World War I and he said ‘Bob, I didn’t get shot, I got gassed. And he said ‘That is why I lost the ability to use my hands.
“It was a year or so after that and I went into the (US) Army in 1965 and I saw Mr. Rose at the cleaners and he said ‘Just a minute I gotta get something from the back.’
“He came back to the counter and he placed a nickel, a buffalo nickel, on the counter.
“And he said ‘Bob, that nickel was carried by a man in World War II. He brought it back and he gave it to me. Then, I gave it to a man who fought in Korea and he also came home and returned the nickel.’
“And, he said ‘Bob, you’re going to return this nickel to me too when you return home.’
“Of course I returned that nickel,” Kellar said in closing. “But may all our service members, each and every one of them, ladies and gentlemen, carry a nickel for Mr. Rose.”
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