Hundreds of Santa Clarita Valley residents typically gather at the Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall on Nov. 11 to honor veterans and remember the nation’s fallen military heroes.
This year, the community was unable to gather due to COVID-19 public health restrictions, but local veterans and their families said Wednesday during a virtual event there are still many ways to honor those who have served the country in the armed forces.
“Veterans Day is a really wonderful opportunity to check in with a veteran in your life, family or friend, and let them know that you appreciate their service and their sacrifice to this country,” said Jennifer Marshall, who served as a Navy second class petty officer.
She was joined by other local veterans in a virtual event hosted by the city of Santa Clarita and SCVTV, featuring prerecorded speakers and music as part of the 14th annual Veterans Day Ceremony to honor local veterans, currently serving military members and their families.
“Today, we take time to honor those Santa Clarita Valley residents, both known and unknown, who have served our country,” said Mayor Cameron Smyth. “Santa Clarita is a patriotic community through and through, and we support our veterans with great reverence. We also thank our current service personnel and most importantly their families for their sacrifice and courage.”
The event also featured a moment of silence for the fallen, a flyover by the Coast Guard and a spectator-free changing of the flags by the Knights of Columbus Santa Clarita Assembly and Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 355.
One of the best ways to honor veterans for their service is to thank them, as well as their families, according to local veterans in the virtual event.
“Thank the veteran. Thank those currently serving. Lay a rose on the grave of those who have perished and at night when you pray, ask God to honor these great people in heaven,” said Roy Burns, who served as a corporal in the Marine Corps.
Another way is to provide them with opportunities, according to Teresa Banko, a Marine Corps engineer.
“I don’t believe that service ends when you take the uniform off and I think that the opportunities that are provided for veterans (and) their family members really help to propel them but also make our country stronger.”
Others suggested donating to local veterans organizations and taking the time to listen and converse with them.
In the SCV, several members of the community organized food drives to donate goods to local veterans, including at the Gorman Learning Center. Teacher Paulette Pipes received dozens of canned items and hand-written “thank you” letters from her students on Tuesday.
“We just wanted to thank our veterans and this was a great way to get the kids involved,” she said. “They’re able to thank them with their cards or letters and help provide something for someone.”
The local events joined other modified Veterans Day celebrations across the country amid the ongoing pandemic. More than 4,200 veterans have died of COVID-19 nationwide, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday, urging residents to help protect veterans “by doing our part to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
The SCV is considered to have the highest number of veterans per capita in California, with about 8,000 to 12,000 people and their families, according to the SCV Veterans Services Collaborative. They join the nearly 1.6 million veterans who currently live in California, a figure Gov. Gavin Newsom highlighted Tuesday in proclaiming Nov. 11 as Veterans Day in the state.