KINGSBURG – Gratitude and pride were just two of the emotions breaking through the voices of speakers and attendees alike at Kingsburg’s first Veterans Day Celebration a day early on Nov. 10.
Kingsburg Mayor Michelle Roman was among speakers expressing thanks to the veterans and family members at the event and recounted even her own family members who’ve served.
“I’m a very proud daughter of not only a Vietnam veteran but also the daughter-in-law of a Vietnam veteran. Today, I’m wearing my father-in-law’s jacket. It says ‘Captain Roman’ but he ended his career as a colonel with the U.S. Air Force and I’m very proud of that.”
Roman predicted that Kingsburg would continue to send its citizens around the globe in military service and thanked the community in advance for its continued support for them.
“We have a long, long history of service in our community. So many people have made the ultimate sacrifice. Our community comes together on days like and we’ll continue to do so.”
The Kingsburg District Chamber of Commerce sponsored the breakfast where veterans and their spouses enjoyed a free Swedish pancake breakfast before the patriotic ceremony.
Organizers say the day was just a small token of appreciation for sacrifices that not only service members have made, but their families also.
“We have veterans here from Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea and World War II,” Chamber member Stan Ruiz said. “When we see each other, it’s like we’ve known each other our whole lives.”
The celebration kicked off with the presentation of colors by Ret. Marine Corps Sgt. Lozano and Air Force Sgt. Doug Taves and the singing of the national anthem by Julie Valdez. VFW Chaplain Robert Ostrom said the invocation.
“It’s full military protocol today,” Ruiz said. ”We started out with ‘Reveille’ and that’s what all us troops heard when we were in the military. That’s what used to wake us up and we’d take a shower and go have breakfast.”
Ruiz said the intent of the day was to also honor veterans interred at the Kingsburg Cemetery and their surviving families. A digital screen displayed their names as Kingsburg Boy Scout Troop #392 members stood guard of a symbolic casket draped with a U.S. flag nearby. A Purple Heart from one of Ruiz’s friends was also on display.
“He asked me to guard [the Purple Heart] with my life,” Ruiz said. “Only he and I have touched it. The Boy Scouts are taking turns guarding it now.”
Kingsburg Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6152 Commander Steve Nagle shared some of his personal experiences in his presentation and called on audience members to not only say thanks but show appreciation.
“If you see a person at a restaurant in a military uniform, offer to pay for their meal. Offer to mow a veteran’s yard. Offer a ride to a doctor’s visit. Or just sit and listen to their experiences,” he said. “We can support our troops by sending care packages. Don’t just attend Memorial Day but help be a part of setting up those 1,200 flags and crosses in our cemetery. Be creative in expressing your thanks.”
Aside from the local Boy Scouts, members of Kingsburg’s The Dance Company and their parents volunteered to serve the breakfast that morning. Dance studio owner Roberta Woods said she wanted the 20 dancers who assisted that morning to learn gratitude and respect from the celebration.
“I want them to understand that their freedom is because of the veterans. They’re able to go to school, play sports and dance because of their sacrifices. They get to get up every day and enjoy life because of the sacrifices these people made.”
Sherri Baker attended with her husband, Jeff Baker. Their son is in the U.S. Marines and she said she can relate to the line in the “Missing Man” poem atop a table that was set for the prisoners of war.
A line in the poem reads, “A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears of our missing and their families – who long for answers after decades of uncertainty.”
“I can imagine that the pinch of salt doesn’t reflect the tears shed,” Baker said. “Really, you’d need a gallon of salt to represent those parents’ tears.”
Baker said she appreciated the commitment and dedication previous and current military members have made and respects the decision the next generation of service members who are deciding to serve.
“I’m very impressed with the responsibilities that they take on to the fullest,” she said. Baker said she was also very pleased with the turnout for the celebration that day.
“I think this [celebration] is a great honor. I’m really pleased to see and to talk to so many vets today and to hear their stories. It’s been a very good morning and you can tell the people who put this together put a lot of thought into it.”
Nagle said that while most military members did not ask to go into battle because they love fighting, but served “in extraordinary ways in extreme times. They were called to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They rose to the nation’s call because they wanted to protect our nation and our way of life.”
A 21-gun salute by the Kingsburg Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6152 and the playing of “Taps” by Roger Lopez and Cheryl Faulkner were part of the ceremony to pay tribute to service members who’ve died.
Ruiz estimates there were more than 300 who attended this first event and plans are to expand the event next year.
“I learned a long time ago that nobody likes to fight, but somebody has to know how,” Ruiz said in ending the ceremony. “And I’m pretty sure there’s no merit in taking another human’s life. But the biggest merit any American can have is to protect the people and the Constitution of the United States of America.”