This is a story that begins with a brick. There are many bricks that adorn the Veterans Historical Plaza here in our beautiful Santa Clarita Valley. Most of us will never face a battlefield. Most of us will never spend months apart in another country fighting the enemy and preserving our freedom. And most of us go to sleep at night knowing that the people we love are safe and warm. This is not the case for those who sacrifice their lives for the lives of others.
For me, it’s the story behind those bricks, and what drives great men and women to become Warriors. Whether you knew or know of someone who fought in World War I or II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq, or not, what is important is that they deserve to be honored.
There are those who felt a calling to serve their country. A former co-worker of mine recounted the story that even though her mother was buried at Riverside National Cemetery she and her sister purchased a brick at the Veterans Historical Plaza so they could visit and somehow feel closer to their mom.
During Hitler’s reign of terror, a young woman named Gerda Weissmann, who was separated from her family during World War II and forced to work in a labor camp, recounted this story:
“Ilse, a childhood friend of mine, once found a raspberry in the camp and carried it in her pocket all day to present to me that night on a leaf. Imagine a world in which your entire possession is one raspberry, and you give it to your friend.”
Gerda later married the soldier who liberated the camp. She was the only one in her family who survived. She became a human rights activist and author. She’s 97 years young.
My stepmother’s brother Dan served in Vietnam. He was on a riverboat when it was attacked and everyone except him died that day. Etched in my mind is a photo that my stepmom had shown me of Dan in Vietnam. The haunting look on his face remains with me to this day. His blonde hair, tanned California skin amidst the horror of that time.
Please take a moment today and look around at the public and private freedoms you enjoy. They didn’t come without a price; most came with a huge sacrifice. America was built on sacrifice, bravery, courage, and heroes. To my co-workers then and now who have served, I thank you! Thank you to my clients who have served, thank you to my late uncle Jerry, thank you to Dan and to my father who during the draft served as a doctor on an Army base for two years, thank you Papa!
The Veterans Historical Plaza is a place to commemorate all of our heroes; even the silent ones who stayed behind the forefront, nurturing and protecting the nest while the Warriors went out to defend our nation. A place for reflection where a daughter can feel closer to her mother, where children can honor a grandparent or a family member, where one can go to reflect on those who served our country, and where the very bravest of all will be remembered and revered for all that they gave. They possess real courage, because they were able to move forward when the outcome was uncertain.
And so the story began with a brick. A brick is solid, stoic and impenetrable. Alone it can symbolize strength, but together they can stand tall to honor those who have fought for our nation, to preserve our freedom, but most of all to preserve humanity. And my brick that I purchased years ago says,” The Brave Go Where No One Else Would Dare!”
So with my hand over my heart, I thank you all for your service, now and evermore!
Jennifer Danny is a Santa Clarita resident.