Guardians, a group for military, law enforcement, firefighters and veterans, held a 9/11 remembrance car show that featured a speech by Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, and Mayor Jason Gibbs.
The opening ceremony included speeches from the two, an invocation led by Pastor Jared Ming of Higher Vision Church, a presentation of colors from the Young Marines of Santa Clarita Valley and a speech by Guardians President Tim Traurig.
The event drew in hundreds of people. While civilian attendees were able to check out some of the intriguing cars on display, veterans and first responders bonded together through the many community resources that were set up.
Near the Guardians booth was 28-year-old Kyle Hutchins — a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Hutchins was in first grade on Sept. 11, 2001. In 2018, Hutchins began fighting a war that was still going 17 years after the event that spawned it.
To help better understand fighting a war that started when he was 6, Hutchins put it into a historical perspective.
“I feel like the country needs a lot of help,” said Hutchins. “But it is just surreal to kind of realize that I was in first grade and we were still fighting the same war that I was a part of.”
The 2021 troop withdrawal of American forces recontextualized 9/11 and its remembrance for Hutchins and many other veterans. Hutchins said he believes “poor politics kicked (Afghanistan) to the ground,” but nonetheless 9/11 was something any American should never forget.
“I think it was a good opportunity for people to show their patriotism here,” said Hutchings. “In addition to that, I think it was a great opportunity to show everybody or have everybody remember what happened… and to make sure that we never forget about what we can do as a nation together, when we work together.”
While Hutchins was candid about how he felt, he may be part of a fortunate few among an unfortunate many. According to Traurig, 22 veterans have died by suicide every day in the past two years, with more firefighters and law enforcement personnel dying by suicide than in the line of duty.
“We know it’s about the trauma, PTSD, because we’ve all grown up in a culture that teaches you to stuff your emotions,” said Traurig. “It’s the way we survive, to be able to do what we do and do it well. To see trauma, after trauma, after trauma — no normal human being was meant to see that much without bad things happening.”
Traurig said techniques or skills that work in one’s favor while on the job will ultimately be counterproductive when one is not. A disconnection forms and emotional relationships with family, friends and one’s self wither.
“We really encourage our members to open up, be transparent and talk about some of their experiences and things that happen,” said Traurig. “For many of these men and women, especially those that were in Vietnam, some of these guys have been dealing with this stuff for 60 years and have never talked about it until now.”
While Traurig emphasized that the day was mainly for remembrance and reflection of 9/11, it was also a day for Guardians to connect with others and attempt to bring them into the fold.
One of the resource booths set up at the event was the Santa Clarita Veterans Services Collaborative. Manning the booth was Vietnam War veteran Dan Bradley, who served from 1966 to 1971. He was stationed in Vietnam from June 1969 to June 1970.
“This guardians event is one of the highlights of the year. They really know how to put on a good show and it’s for a good cause. I work at the Veterans Center, two mornings a week. We provide a food pantry for veterans and their families. We offer access to all sorts of veteran services and benefits. And we invite all to come and see us, but the Guardians know what to do,” said Bradley.
The event’s national anthem was performed by musician Terrell Edwards.