KINGSBURG – Local veterans in partnership with the Kingsburg Chamber of Commerce are organizing a first pancake breakfast celebration for Veterans Day as a way to show appreciation for all military members’ service.

“It’s to bring awareness and remember everyone that has served,” Chamber board member Jason Poynor said. Poynor himself served in the U.S. Air Force. “Kingsburg is inundated with a large veteran community.”

The Veterans Day celebration will be from 8:15-10:15 a.m. Nov. 10 on Draper Street. The event includes a free Swedish pancake breakfast for veterans and their spouses. The breakfast is $5 for all other attendees. A ceremony will include speakers, a 21-gun salute, the playing of reveille, taps and the national anthem. Among speakers will be Veterans of Foreign Wars member Steve Nagle who is also a former longtime Kingsburg High teacher and current board member. Each military branch will be recognized during the event.

Kingsburg Cemetery Secretary Tracey Nunez is providing a list of the more than 1,200 veterans buried at the local cemetery and banners with their names will be created for the celebration.

Service members are encouraged to wear their uniforms if they are still available.

A portion of Downtown Draper will be closed and seating for the breakfast and ceremony will be set up.

Chamber Director Kaitlyn Groft said the event is open to veterans from any branch and city and a table will be set up for children to create cards.

“Kids will make cards for the veterans overseas. It’s a great way to get kids involved with showing respect,” Groft said. Later, the Chamber will later mail those cards out.

Chamber board member Stan Ruiz, a U.S. Marines veteran, is helping coordinate the breakfast and says the local VFW and American Legion are aiding with proper military protocol for the event.

Ruiz encourages families to attend the breakfast along with the service members. “If your dad’s in there or your grandpa or great-grandpa, this is for them.”

Ruiz said Chamber President Matt Wood originally talked about having a special celebration after visiting a similar out-of-town event.

“The closest we get to it is the Memorial Day celebration at the cemetery,” Ruiz said. That service has drawn the attention of veterans throughout the state, he said, to the point many request to be buried there. “To me, that shows the respect our town is doing already, but we want to do more.”

Poynor said while he’s aware of the parade in Fresno, he felt it was time Kingsburg host its own celebration to show honor for its local veterans.

“Fresno has their event every year and it’s a beautiful turnout. I think Kingsburg also needs to give back and honor those who have served and are responsible for giving us all the freedoms we’re afforded today,” said.

Veterans Day is actually Nov. 11 and marks the anniversary of the signing of the armistice which ended World War I between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918. Veterans are thanked for their services to the United States on this day.

Poynor and Ruiz know first-hand what it’s like to face every day dangers while serving the country. And while it’s sometimes not always an easy topic of conversation, they say it’s always an appropriate time to show respect for sacrifices made overseas and at home.

Ruiz said civilians may also not realize that behind every service member are family members carrying on at the home front and often rearing children alone while military members are away.

“A lot of people don’t understand when the husbands or wives, sons and daughters are overseas, a lot of parents go through a lot of sleepless nights until that son or daughter is back home.”

Ruiz’s father and uncles also served in World War II. They served from the Pacific to South Africa and Germany earning citations and Purple Hearts.

“There was another family here in town with six sons fighting in World War II at one time. Can you imagine what that family and wives and brothers and sisters felt? I can’t fathom it. My mom begged me not to go into the military, but I said ‘mom it’s in our blood. It’s what we do.’”

Poynor joined the U.S. Air Force in 2000. When the Twin Towers in New York were attacked, he was serving as a civil engineer. His orders changed and he was immediately shipped out to support the Afghanistan efforts in the Middle East.

“Just because you’re not going into a firefight, so to speak, it’s still dangerous work,” Poynor said. “Mortars were being lobbed over all the time at the bases where we were at. Innocent bystanders not in a firefight were getting killed out there.”

Poynor says he commends the next generation of recruits who voluntarily serve in the military now. He last served as an active duty recruiter for Fresno and Merced counties.

“It blew me away to see these kids come in to the office and tell me their life story. It was fulfilling to see these kids in uniform and their whole 180 turnaround. I’ve got a good feeling and think the force is in good hands when I left.”

Poynor said plans are in the works to have a parade for next year’s Veterans Day celebration.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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