On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, battalions of American soldiers celebrated the armistice that ended the bloodshed of the First World War.
Nearly 100 years later, at exactly the same time of day, hundreds of local veterans congregated at the Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall to commemorate the sacrifices made by generations of soldiers in theaters that spanned from the trenches of Europe to the mountains of Afghanistan.
The ceremony, which featured speeches, readings and live music, began with an address from Ted Olsen, the day’s master of ceremonies.
“We gather to honor those that have so gallantly served our country,” he said.
Among those was Jim Hogan, who fought in Vietnam and is an active member of the Santa Clarita veteran community.
Jim and his wife, Pam, sat with their service dog Hoosier in the front row — carefully watching the event they helped champion.
“We’re not the founders (of the ceremony),” Hogan said. “But we took over 16 or 17 years ago.”
The Veterans Day Ceremony is a collaboration between the City of Santa Clarita and American Family Funding, American Legion, Post 507, American Legion Auxiliary, Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America, Back to the War Zone, Blue Star Dads, Blue Star Mothers of the Canyons Chapter #82, College of the Canyons Veterans Resource Center, Congressman Steve Knight’s Office, Disabled American Veterans, Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary, Elks Lodge 2379, Homes for Heroes, Knights of Columbus, Lions Club, Moose Lodge, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Optimists Club, Prayer Angels for the Military, Rotary Club, Santa Clarita Valley Veterans Memorial, Inc., Soroptimist Club, The Soldiers Project, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, V.F.W. Post 6110, V.F.W. Post 6885, Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 355, Wartime Romance and 1st Marine Division Associates, according to city of Santa Clarita officials.
After being treated to a flyover by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, the Hogans and other veteran families then heard from a series of speakers.
The first of whom was Robert Heinisch, who spoke on behalf of American GI’s who have been declared ‘missing in action’ (MIA) or prisoners of war (POW).
“We have a promise in the military — that nobody gets left behind,” Heinisch said.
The government continues to work to ensure that all soldiers, alive or deceased, are brought home to the United States, he said. Currently 82,390 Americans are considered POW/MIA.
After a brief introduction from Congressman Steve Knight, R-Santa Clarita, WWII veteran Lee Shulman was welcomed to the podium in what would be one of the morning’s keynote speeches.
Schulman, while a psychology student at the University of Michigan, enlisted in the Army in 1942. He was stationed in Asia as a cryptographer — a skill he first learned as a Boy Scout.
“We are really blessed to live in a city like this, in a country like this — being able to celebrate the victories in the many wars in which we’ve fought,” he said.
Schulman ended his speech on a poignant note as he recounted the lyrics to “God Bless America.”
“I will recite the words of that song because every time we sing it, it brings a little tear to my eye,” he said.
Schulman looked out into the crowd of his fellow veterans, clad in dress uniforms dotted with patches, medals and regalia, cleared his throat, and began.
“God bless America,” he said, then paused for a moment.
“My home, sweet home.”