Laurene Weste | Honoring Our Fallen Heroes  

Laurene Weste
Santa Clarita Councilwoman Laurene Weste

Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” – President Harry S. Truman  

Throughout American history, few occasions resonate with as much solemnity and reverence as Memorial Day. Originating in May 1868, to commemorate the losses in the Civil War, this revered day serves as a reminder of the countless sacrifices made by generations of servicemen and women in defense of our freedom and democracy.  

Across the country, Americans honor these fallen soldiers through a variety of ceremonies and parades, like we do each year at Eternal Valley. Whether on the battlefields of Gettysburg, the beaches of Normandy or the rugged terrain of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, their names echo through history, their valor forever etched in time.  

Memorial Day is not only a poignant reminder of those we have lost, but it also reaffirms the values that define us as a nation. It is a testament to the enduring bond of solidarity that unites us across generations. By honoring the sacrifices of the past, we renew our commitment to the ideals of freedom, justice and democracy for which they fought and died. In this shared moment of reflection, we can draw solace from the knowledge that their legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of all who cherish our freedom. 

Here in Santa Clarita, we honor our active military personnel from the Santa Clarita Valley through the Hometown Heroes Military Banner Program. Throughout the year, we proudly install banners in the community with printed photos and names of military personnel who have fought for our country from our city. Yet, there are 24 banners that stand out among the rest – the Gold Star Fallen Warriors.  

Airman Steven Isaiah Anderson, Pvt. Matthew Gonzalez, Senior Airman Fabian Reyes, Cpl. Adrian Santiago, Pfc. Brendan Friedrich, Master Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Gray II, Senior Airman Atahualpa Castillo, Pfc. Austen Houchen, Tech. Sgt. Christopher Pentecostes, Sgt. Jake Solley, Maj. Alan Colley, Cpl. Joseph Salcido, Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno, Senior Master Sgt. Sean Gallagher, Spc. Rudy Acosta, Spc. Stephen E. Colley, Sgt. John M. Conant, Spc. Jose Ricardo Flores, Sgt. Ian T. Gelig, Pfc. Cole W. Larsen, Cpl. Richard Nordland, Sgt. Dennis L. Sellen Jr., Lance Cpl. Richard P. Slocum and Pfc. Class Jake W. Suter.   

These are the names of the men who lost their lives since 9/11 while serving in the United States Armed Forces. These banners are hung exclusively on the approach to the Fallen Warriors Memorial Bridge, dedicated to these courageous men. Each banner not only signifies a life lost, but also a local family whose lives were forever changed. They no longer have the ability to hug their loved ones, to tell their father, son, brother, uncle or friend just how much they mean to them. Each of these banners shows the photo of a true hero – someone who many of us called our friends and family.  

At Veterans Historical Plaza in Old Town Newhall, we also have the Fallen Warriors Monument, which has the name of every known soldier in the Santa Clarita Valley who was killed in action, etched into a beautiful granite wall. This monument honors those who fought in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  

As many people enjoy a long weekend and go on vacation during Memorial Day, I urge you to pause and reflect on the true meaning of this holiday. Reflect on the debt of gratitude we owe to the 1.2 million men and women who gave their lives for our freedom. This year we will also salute the brave and courageous women who have served our country so faithfully, in the ceremony at Eternal Valley, at the top of the hill, 10 a.m. on Monday, May 27.  

Keep all of their families in our hearts and prayers, as they do not get to spend an extended weekend with their lost loved ones. Let us honor their memory not only with words, but also with deeds, by living our lives in a manner worthy of their sacrifice, ensuring they will never be forgotten. 

Councilwoman Laurene Weste is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at [email protected]. 

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