Momentarily setting aside branch rivalries, a coalition of Santa Clarita Valley military veterans were joined by hundreds of their fellow local residents and community leaders in attending the city of Santa Clarita Veterans Day Ceremony on Thursday.
The event, held at Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall, featured a combination of patriotic performances, speeches, military displays and a flyover, all of which contributed to the overarching theme of reverence for all those who have served.
“Maybe, just maybe, besides the grace of God, maybe there’s a very good reason and a very good explanation for the glory and blessings that we enjoy as Americans,” said Rep. Mike Garcia during the event. “And maybe it’s because of a very special group of people that we honor here today.”
“It’s because of our veterans, a group that represents less than 1% of our nation that has been willing to stand up and serve and fight and, if needed, die for our beautiful country and the rights that we retain as Americans,” Garcia added.
Garcia said Veterans Day also served as a good reminder that while the holiday serves an important purpose each year in teaching younger generations about having pride in their country, he reminded those in attendance that former members of the military require year-round support.
“Every day, we lose roughly 20 veterans to suicide (and) this is unacceptable,” said Garcia. “This is something that is avoidable; many of us have demons, dark thoughts and far too many of us have acted on those and committed suicide and taking our own lives.”
Garcia said that while the general public is given an annual opportunity each fall to reflect on the sacrifices of military members, veterans must also recognize the importance of reliably being there for one another.
“We have an obligation as veterans to talk to each other and get people to talk about their emotions,” said Garcia. “Veterans helping veterans is the best way to ensure that veterans don’t kill themselves.”
One such person who appeared to already embody the 365-day desire to support his fellow veterans was Vietnam War veteran and former member of the United States Navy, James Hogan.
At the ceremony held in a plaza that he helped create, Hogan, with his seeing eye dog at his feet, spoke to those flowing into the event about possibly volunteering to assist in driving veterans to the V.A. Hospital in Los Angeles during the year.
“They take the van up to the senior center, pick up our veterans here that go to the VA and then bring him home,” said Hogan, adding that he had already received eight signatures from potential volunteers during the event. “They don’t have anybody now, and my goal now is to set up that transportation and get it back going by the end of the year.”
He said that events such as the one on Thursday not only help educate younger generations, but also help fellow veterans — regardless of when they served or what branch they served in — to find support structures and establish networks that will be used to help others.
“Events like these are needed because for these veterans it was almost like a thankless job, we need to show them appreciation,” said Raymond Lau, a member of the Knights of Columbus Santa Clarita Assembly. “But like the speakers said, we should honor them not just today, but throughout the year for the sacrifice.”