Community memorializes fallen soldiers at monument unveiling

From right to left, Bob Slocum, Assemblyman Dante Acosta and Carolyn Acosta unveil the Fallen Warriors Monument at Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal
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Veterans, gold star families and community members gathered in Veterans Historical Plaza Wednesday morning to be the first to see the new Fallen Warriors Monument unveiled.

With over two years of planning and more than $57,000 in community donations, the monument honored Santa Clarita servicemembers, both known and unknown, who lost their lives in the line of duty.

The monument features the names of those who lost their lives serving in World War I, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bob Slocum (right) stands next to Assemblyman Dante Acosta and Carolyn Acosta after the Fallen Warriors Monument is unveiled at Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

Among the gold star family members recognizing a loved one on the memorial, Assemblyman Dante Acosta honored his son Rudy.

“As we go forward and we remember our fallen, including our son Specialist Rudy Acosta, we acknowledge their service, their commitment and their sacrifice to their communities,” Acosta said. “I think it’s important and incumbent upon all of us to pray that there are no other names that are added to this memorial here in Santa Clarita or anywhere else around the country.”

Acosta said his highest priority is ensuring those who lost their lives are remembered honorably. All gold star families fear their sons and daughters will be forgotten, he said.

“The most honorable thing that I can say about my life is that I am a gold star father,” the assemblyman said. “With that comes an enormous amount of pride, but it also comes with responsibility to make sure our young men and women are not forgotten.”

It is important to keep fallen soldiers, veterans and their families in one’s mind and heart, Acosta said.

“The very fact that we can gather here under the banner of freedom is because all of you have gone on and paid some sort of sacrifice, whether it is your time or your blood or loved ones,” he said.

The Marine Corps League President Ronald Reagan Detachment 597 advances the colors during the unveiling of the Fallen Warriors Monument at Veterans Historical Park in Newhall on Wednesday, Nob. 8, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

After the monument was unveiled, the names of each of the fallen warriors was read by a veteran who served in the same war, proceeded by taps playing and a gun salute.

As emphasized by several speakers, the memorial project was spearheaded in each phase by Bill Reynolds, a Vietnam veteran and The Signal’s Director of Veterans Affairs.

On the day of the unveiling, Reynolds was headed to Vietnam to greet President Donald Trump on his tour of Asia.

In his place, Councilman Bob Kellar took on his responsibility and read his speech for him.

“This was his labor of love and the community came and rallied behind us incredibly well,” Kellar said about Reynolds.

Kellar read Reynolds’ anecdotes sharing his experience witnessing friends killed in combat and grappling with the loss afterward.

“I have visited gold star families as many of us here have done and I can only imagine their pain,” Kellar said from Reynolds’ notes. “We never forget our fallen warriors. They lost all of their tomorrows for all of our todays.”

World War II Veteran Lee Schulman reads the names of the fallen from WWII during the ceremony for the unveiling of the Fallen Warriors Monument at Veterans Historical Park in Newhall on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

The day after he was elected to the city council last year, Mayor Cameron Smyth remembers getting a call from Reynolds wanting to get to work on the monument.

Soon after, the two were at the plaza planning for next steps for the monument.

“What an amazing, community-driven event we have here today as we unveil our much-anticipated Fallen Warriors Monument,” Smyth said. “Santa Clarita is known for many things, and I know one of the ones the council is most proud of is our commitment and support of our veterans and our active military service.”

Retired Army Ch. Amos Clemmons sings as Army Vietnam Veteran Dave Null plays the violin during the ceremony for the unveiling of the Fallen Warriors Monument at Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

Donning his son’s dog tags and a button with his photo on it, gold star father Bob Slocum was proud to honor his son Richard who was killed in Iraq.

Richard Slocum’s name is also written on bricks at the Veterans Historical Plaza and is honored at the Fallen Warriors Bridge.

The elder Slocum makes a habit of visiting the plaza to memorialize his son already, but said the monument gives him another special reason.

“It’s just a good place to come and just meditate and walk around and think about all the people that did serve and have passed,” Slocum said.

Ed Colley and Kathy Colley show emotion as the Fallen Warriors Monument is unveiled, displaying the names of family members, at Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

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