Veterans, families of fallen veterans, and local dignitaries attended a ceremony on Sunday afternoon inducting the Remembering Our Fallen exhibit at the east atrium of the Westfield Valencia Town Center.
The traveling memorial displays the photos and names of the 750 men and women from California who died serving in the armed forces following the Sept. 11 attacks.
The ceremony was hosted by the Blue Star Mothers — an organization founded in 1942 that’s composed of mothers of active-duty service members and veterans.
In attendance were state Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares, R-Santa Clarita, Mayor Laurene Weste, Mayor Pro Tem Jason Gibbs, City Councilwoman Marsha McLean and City Councilman Bill Miranda.
Valladares thanked the Blue Star mothers for “ensuring that those of us who live under the blanket of freedom, know of the sacrifice that it took for us to continue to live in the greatest [country] on Earth” and said the similar feeling she has when leaving her children for Sacramento each week, must be much greater for mothers of those who serve.
“I can only imagine what it’s like to be the mom of someone who’s serving our great country to have their sons and their daughters serving,” said Valladares. “The ache must be tenfold [in] your heart… I want to thank our Blue Star Mothers personally for your incredible, incredible sacrifice and for your unending support of your children who proudly serve our great nation.”
One of those mothers, Cindy Del Bagno, was there to remember her son, Steven. Steven, a Santa Clarita native, was a major in the United States Air Force who flew with the Thunderbirds. Steven was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada when he was killed during a training exercise in 2018.
“He was a good kid. And he loved to fly ever since. That was probably the first word out of his mouth was ‘airborne.’ He always had a dream and a vision to become a fighter pilot, and he accomplished his dreams. And he was a good friend to a lot of people,” said Del Bagno.
When a child of someone who’s in the Blue Stars organization dies, they are symbolically dubbed a “gold star.” At the end of the ceremony, the gold star families were each presented with a yellow rose to symbolize their transition.
Before the presentation of the roses, the host of the event, Army and Navy veteran, and Blue Star father, Chris Werthe, thanked them for their sacrifices.
“Your child volunteered to serve, protect and defend this country at a time when people are looking to do us great harm,” said Werthe. “On behalf of our community and a grateful nation we will never forget. We will say their name.”
The Remember Our Fallen Memorial will be at the Westfield Valencia Town Center, near The Canyon, until Sept. 30.