On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour of the day, the Santa Clarita Valley community came together to honor the veteran community.
“Veterans Day stands as a poignant reminder of the unwavering support and reverence we hold for those who have valiantly served our nation,” said Mayor Jason Gibbs. “Our veterans and active duty military personnel are the steadfast foundation of our community and it is essential to acknowledge that without their courage, their dedication and their abiding commitment, the United States would simply not exist. Their sacrifices have safeguarded the freedoms that you and I get to cherish every single day.”
The significance of the triple 11 commemorates the end of World War I, which concluded at the same time and day in 1918.
Amid a sea of red, white and blue, the following local dignitaries were in attendance, in addition to Gibbs: Councilwoman Marsha McLean, Councilwoman Laurene Weste, Councilman Bill Miranda, Isabell Yaralian representing Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Tammy Stevens representing Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, Kris Hough representing Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth. Former Councilmen Bob Kellar and Dante Acosta were also in attendance.
Jan Daley served as the event’s master of ceremonies. Daley’s father was an Air Force pilot in World War II who had flown over 25 missions over Germany. Once the war was declared over, he went to pick up prisoners of war and in doing so he was shot down.
“We are here to celebrate and honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good,” said Daley, who performed for the troops in Vietnam as part of Bob Hope’s USO tour during the Vietnam War.
Daley asked for the audience to participate in a moment of silence to honor those who had served and are currently serving. All that could be heard was the wind making its way through the Veterans Historical Plaza.
Cantor Michael Freed broke the silence by offering the invocation for the event and Daley followed with a performance of the national anthem that had attendees joining in.
As attendees sat back into their seats, Gibbs rose to the podium to welcome all those in attendance.
“We stand in unison with our fellow Americans, paying homage to the veterans who served with honor in all branches of the military during times of conflict, as well as in times of peace,” said Gibbs. “We also want to honor our homegrown heroes of Santa Clarita who have selflessly served our nation.”
Two members of the Olive Branch Theatricals preformed two songs. Both were songs popular in the 1940s paying homage to those who served.
The Knights of Columbus Santa Clarita Assembly 2421, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 255 and Santa Clarita Valley Young Marines worked together in changing the flags that take residency on the five flag poles in the plaza.
The moment each of the flags had made their way to the top, the wind lifted them up and waved them in the sky.
The American flag that was once on the flagpole was folded up into a triangle and presented to a selected veteran who then hugged the flag tight in his crossed arms.
Jerry Rhodes, a Vietnam veteran, took to the stage under the new waving flags. Rhodes looked back to one flag in particular – the POW flag.
“There’s one thing in particular that we share,” said Rhodes, addressing the crowd of Vietnam and Korean War veterans, “there were many of us who didn’t come home.”
According to Rhodes, 81,000 service men and women have not been accounted for since World War II; 7,486 from the Korean War and 12,144 from the Vietnam War.
To honor those who have not come home, a missing man table was set up next to the stage.
Rhodes expressed his hopes that one day every individual will be accounted for and thanked everyone for their service.
“Our job is to teach the next generation that this country is indeed worth fighting for,” said Rhodes.
Following, veteran Richard Meyers took the stage at age 93.
Meyers shared his story, tapping into his experience as a standup comedian. Meyers made the decision to enlist in 1949, but was unsure of what branch he should join.
He said that the Marines would have been too tough for him and the idea of floating in the ocean with the Navy made him nauseous. He decided to go into the Air Force.
This left him serving in the Korean War.
“When I think of all the servicemen who came before me, and all the ones that served during my time, and the ones that come after me, and my little bitty part, in all of that, there’s only two words that describes how I feel,” said Meyers. “The first word is humble. And the second word is proud.”
The three council members in attendance each took to the stage to recognize those involved in the veteran and actively serving communities: McLean shared the recognition of the gold star families, Miranda shared the recognition of the branches of service and Weste shared the recognition of families of service members.
“Santa Clarita our residents constantly go the extra mile to make sure that our heroes are acknowledged and never forgotten and honored for dedicated service and enduring sacrifices,” said McLean. “Words cannot possibly take away the pain of your loss, but I hope it at least gives a tiny bit of comfort to know that those who gave their lives to protect the safety and freedom of America and for all of us here today will never be forgotten.”
“We always think of our veterans, we always value our veterans and veterans are always welcome in our community and we do all we can to make veterans’ experiences here in Santa Clarita as wonderful as we possibly can,” said Miranda.
Daley took the stage once again to conclude the event. She stood in front of the podium and started to become overwhelmed with emotion.
Tears came to her eyes as she waved up into the sky and said, “Hi daddy.”