SCV Vietnam veterans host second annual celebration 

Vietnam veterans enjoy lunch at the Senior Center during the National Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration on Friday, March 29. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Vietnam veterans enjoy lunch at the Senior Center during the National Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration on Friday, March 29. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
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Friday marked National Vietnam Veterans Day, and the second annual Santa Clarita Valley National Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration was held at the SCV Senior Center.  

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are “7 million living Vietnam veterans and 10 million families of those who served during the Vietnam War period.” 

Employees hand out meals to veterans through a makeshift drive-through at the Senior Center parking lot during the National Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration on Friday, March 29. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Employees hand out meals to veterans through a makeshift drive-through at the Senior Center parking lot during the National Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration on Friday, March 29. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Santa Clarita veterans who served from Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, were honored by Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 355 Friday with a brunch, which was sponsored by the American Legion Post 507, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6885 and the Santa Clarita Veteran Services Collaborative.  

While many veterans were present during the ceremony at the Senior Center, an influx of cars crowded the Senior Center’s parking lot to pick up free meals in the makeshift drive-through.  

Employees hand out meals to veterans through a makeshift drive-through at the Senior Center parking lot during the National Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration on Friday, March 29. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Employees hand out meals to veterans through a makeshift drive-through at the Senior Center parking lot during the National Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration on Friday, March 29. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

With certificates given to Chapter 355 throughout the ceremony, including a quilt presented to a veteran by Donna Kiger, volunteer of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, Chapter 355 President Bruce Millhench led the commemoration and shared sentiments with fellow veterans: “Welcome home. Welcome home.” 

Donna Kiger, volunteer of Quilts of Valor Foundation, presents a quilt during the ceremony on Friday, March 29. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Donna Kiger, volunteer of Quilts of Valor Foundation, presents a quilt during the ceremony on Friday, March 29. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

R.J. Kelly, Chapter 355 vice president and treasurer, and Secretary Jerry Rhodes, along with the rest of the chapter, spent roughly a month to ensure that the event was a success, a quick effort compared to last year’s 90-day set up.  

“The Vietnam War actually started back in the late ’50s, early ’60s, and it was really recognized for all the fighting in ’64 right up until it was officially dissolved in the ’70s,” Kelly said. “This is our second event. Every year we want to bring together as many Vietnam veterans as we can.” 

Jerry Rhodes, left, and R.J. Kelly spearded the National Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration on Friday, March 29 at the SCV Senior Center. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Jerry Rhodes, left, and R.J. Kelly spearded the National Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration on Friday, March 29 at the SCV Senior Center. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Kelly expressed gratitude for the Senior Center’s efforts in helping make this event a continued tradition every March 29.  

“The Senior Center has been very gracious of giving us great food and great camaraderie and of course, professionalism,” Kelly said “We want to recognize all the local organizations, and the reality is there’s a Vietnam vet in almost every organization. My understanding is we have close to 1,100 Vietnam vets in our area.” 

According to Rhodes, there are 123 lifetime members through the chapter, but they are always looking for more.  

“We’re always searching for more lifetime memberships for $50. The importance of membership in our organization is that Vietnam vets are obviously dying off, dwindling count, and we need to continue to have a voice,” Kelly said. 

Vietnam veterans enjoy lunch at the Senior Center during the National Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration on Friday, March 29. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Vietnam veterans enjoy lunch at the Senior Center during the National Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration on Friday, March 29. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Local businesses helped sponsor prepackaged food for the attendees. This year’s selection was packaged oatmeal. 

According to Rhodes, among the speakers who were slated to speak, but couldn’t attend, was a doughnut dolly, or a “female American Red Cross worker deployed overseas to provide support and a sympathetic ear to millions of U.S. service members,” according to the American Red Cross

The other woman expected was Jane Daly, an 89-year-old United Service Organizations performer who often performed with Bob Hope, according to Rhodes. 

Vietnam veterans enjoy lunch at the Senior Center during the National Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration on Friday, March 29. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Vietnam veterans enjoy lunch at the Senior Center during the National Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration on Friday, March 29. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Kevin MacDonald, CEO of the Senior Center, discussed how the collaboration with Chapter 355 came about.  

“Veterans of America Chapter 355 approached the Senior Center and wanted to do something special. We said, ‘Well, we have lunch every day, so come and join us,” MacDonald said. “The whole team came together and put on a wonderful ceremony today.” 

According to MacDonald, the food was provided because the center wanted to “honor them that way.” 

“We love our vets, and throughout the year, we try to honor them as many ways we can. It’s a natural fit for the Senior Center and we’re just so proud of all the veterans. Whenever we can help them out, we try to,” MacDonald said. “It was a wonderful day to recognize them.” 

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