A Centennial Tribute

Veterans advocate Sharon Ventrice, left, and Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste stand by a display of original and reproduction WW1 artifacts on display at Santa Clarita City Hall as they prepare for the 100th anniversary of WWI and the Veterans Day Ceremony that will be held at Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall on Sunday, November 11, 2018. Dan Watson/The Signal
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By Caleb Lunetta
Signal Staff Writer

On Nov. 11, 1918, soldiers around the world celebrated the signing of an armistice between the Allies and Germany, which concluded the most bloody human conflict in human history to that point.

On the centennial of that agreement, city of Santa Clarita officials have planned a public commemoration in remembrance of those who have served in World War I, and since.
Mayor Laurene Weste signed a proclamation at a council meeting last month calling for a “Bells of Peace, World War I Centennial Commission” event for this coming Veterans Day.

The event, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., is set to include speeches from City Council officials, performances of wartime songs, as well as the tolling of the “Bells of Peace,” to serve as a reminder of all those who served or lost their lives during the conflict, Weste said.

The Knights of Columbus plan to lead the changing of the flags, and Robert Heinisch, chaplain at American Legion Post 507, will take the stage to honor those who have gone missing in action and those who were held as prisoners of war.

While researching how the city shuld commemorate the centennial, Weste said she learned there’s not much featured in Santa Clarita concerning World War I, and how the devastation overseas affected those in Southern California.

“We don’t really don’t know if anyone from Santa Clarita died because our population was only a couple thousand at that time,” said Weste. “But what we do know is that we lost over 300 boys from Los Angeles County, which was a lot of people from our region.”

So, in addition to the speeches and readings, WWI memorabilia will be on display during the ceremony, including two Vietnam War veterans who plan to be dressed in American “Doughboy” uniform replicas.

“My husband and Jerry Rhodes will be wearing the ‘Doughboy’ uniforms during the event, and Jerry will even be reading the poem, ‘In Flanders Fields,’ in it,” said Weste.

Weste, and another event organizer, Sharon Ventrice, also plan to bring a number of pieces their own World War I memorabilia that they have collected over the years, including dog tags, an American soldier’s helmet and 500 replicas of a sheet music book used by recruiters over a century ago.

“On the front of the sheet music is the Norman Rockwell painting, ‘Over There,’ and on the backside is a song of the same name by George M. Cohan… who also wrote ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag’ and ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy,’” Weste said. “This song was about getting them to the recruiters office… the boys would be marching through the street singing this song.”

Both the song leaflets and “Santa Clarita WWI Veterans Day” commemorative dog tags — which have been stamped out in the same way and design as dog tags worn by WWI soldiers — will be distributed to the first 500 people in attendance.

“We’re trying to give people a flavor of the history of America and let them know that our community was involved,” said Weste. “So, the dog tags we’re giving out were also handmade, just like the ones made for the soldiers.”

The special Veterans Day event is open to the public and will take place at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 at Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall.

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