Some of the Santa Clarita Valley’s veterans were honored Wednesday at the SCV Chamber of Commerce’s 11th annual Salute to Patriots, recognizing these men and women for not only serving their country but also the community.
“Of all living Americans, only 7% of us have ever been in the military,” noted honoree and former Navy Seal Max Morgan, referring to veterans as “a special class of people.”
It was a sentiment expressed by many at the annual event organized by the chamber, in partnership with the city of Santa Clarita, which honored six veterans this year, including Morgan, William Cooper, Heidi Elizabeth Heinrich, Barbara Stone, Renard Thomas and Randal Winter.
A record number of nominations were received this year from chamber members and local residents for veterans who served the country and made an impact in the SCV business community.
“We are a blessed nation to have so many brave women and men willing to serve in defense of America,” said John Musella, partner at Evolve Business Strategies, which manages the chamber. “You are not only national heroes and national treasures, you are our hometown heroes, as well.”
Following a presentation of the colors by the Valencia High School Junior ROTC and the national anthem sung by Hart High student Claire Tester, each honoree was introduced and presented an award by the organization that had nominated them.
“Our journeys have all been different, but it brought us here together today because we realized that our oath never ends, and we continue to serve in different capacities,” said Heinrich, an Army and National Guard veteran.
It was the Navy that Cooper credited for leading him to his life’s career in water treatment and as the first board president of the SCV Water Agency.
“They took this 17-and-a-half-year-old kid and taught him responsibility, dedication, leadership — all the things that at 17 and a half, very few of us have — but they did a good job,” Cooper added.
While there were good parts and bad of military service, Heinrich agreed, adding that it made her who she is today.
“I look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead in continuing to set an example for my kids on how to meaningfully contribute to society and serve both God and our community,” Heinrich added.
Army Reservist Thomas, who has worked with veterans through College of the Canyons among other local veteran organizations, said the honor was one he felt guilty for, as he is proud to be a veteran and loves the work he does helping other veterans.
During the event, organizers also recognized last year’s honorees in person, which included Mayor Bill Miranda, Phuong Quach, Jeff Stabile and Paul Raggio, as last year’s event had to be held virtually ahead of the Veterans Day holiday.