Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 5:39 pm | Fair 71º

 
 
 
 

Local News

New Veterans Plaque Dedicated in Solvang Park Remembering Santa Ynez Valley’s Casualties

The monument bearing the names of 18 men rests at the base of the park's flagpole, serving as 'a reminder for generations to come'

Jeanine Moniot shows the newly unveiled plaque to her grandson, 8-year-old Sebastian Jacobs, in Solvang Park. Moniot’s first husband’s name, David Tibbetts, is among the 18 military casualties from the Santa Ynez Valley included on the memorial.
Jeanine Moniot shows the newly unveiled plaque to her grandson, 8-year-old Sebastian Jacobs, in Solvang Park. Moniot’s first husband’s name, David Tibbetts, is among the 18 military casualties from the Santa Ynez Valley included on the memorial. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

After the speeches and songs were done, Jeanine Moniot showed her young grandson the newly unveiled plaque bearing the names of 18 Santa Ynez Valley men who died while serving in the military between World War I and today.

Solvang memorial
Eighteen names of men who died while serving in the military are included on the new plaque at the base of the flagpole in Solvang Park. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Veterans organizations dedicated the new plaque on the base of the flagpole in Solvang Park as part of this year’s Memorial Day ceremony. Included among the 18 names listed on the plaque is Moniot’s first husband, David Tibbetts, who died while serving in the Army in Vietnam.

“I think it’s a great thing,” said Moniot, adding she is pleased at the plaque remembering the valley’s sons. “It’s wonderful. We all kind of try to just put everything behind us and forget. But I don’t think we should forget. 

“It was more than I expected,” Moniot added about the effort to remember her former husband. “It was a beautiful day. I’m very appreciative of what everyone’s done. I know we all are.”

Approximately 400 people, including families of fallen warriors, local residents and tourists, attended Monday’s ceremony.

Memorial Day, which originated from Decoration Day, is considered by many to be the unofficial start of summer and a three-day weekend. 

Col. Shane Clark, 30th Space Wing vice commander at Vandenberg Air Force Base, said those who attended the Santa Ynez Valley ceremony recognize the day means much more.

“It’s a time for reverence and reflection,” Clark said in his keynote speech, adding it’s a time to pay homage to the 1 million people who died while serving the U.S. military.

Clark also reflected on the loss of a Vandenberg employee, noting that this year’s Memorial Day fell on May 25, as it did in 2009 when Naval Reserve Cmdr. Duane Wolfe was killed in Iraq. In his civilian job, Wolfe worked at Vandenberg as deputy commander of the 30th Mission Support Group.

"He, too, was a hero,” Clark said.

Also making this year’s Memorial Day especially poignant is the 70th anniversary of the World War II’s end, Clark said.

Orcutt resident Robert “Bob” Hatch, a highly decorated veteran who served in Vietnam after growing up in Santa Ynez Valley, personally knew three of the people listed on the new plaque. He learned about others through the years.

“This need to remember is why families and friends, along with total strangers, will come here long after today’s dedication is over,” Hatch said. “We are informing all of you assembled here that we will never forget these men. 

Solvang memorial
Robert "Bob" Hatch, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran who grew up in the Santa Ynez Valley, speaks to Benihien Powell, who fled Vietnam 34 years ago and works at a Solvang nail salon. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“They died so that others might live in freedom and they deserve a place in the valley’s history. This memorial will continue to served as a reminder for generations to come of their sacrifices and that freedom has a heavy price.”

While he prayed for an announcement that wars would end, Hatch said he recognized that in this world today many wish to harm people in the United States — some simply due to their hatred for the American way of life.

“This monument placed directly underneath the symbol of our freedom will act as a reminder to those who will serve in the future that we will remember them and honor them as they continue to defend the United States of America,” he added.

Hatch also expressed his appreciation for those behind creating, sponsoring, designing, installing and maintaining the plaque. 

“The  joint venture between the VFW and American Legion brought a vision to reality,” Hatch said.

After the ceremony, Solvang manicurist Benihien Powell, who arrived in the United States as a refugee from Vietnam 34 years ago,  spoke to Hatch to express her appreciation for his service and share that veterans should not view the war that ended 40 years ago as a loss. Western freedoms are enjoyed by many in Vietnam, Powell added.

Both became emotional during the quick meeting.

"Because I value the freedom," she said afterward about her tears, noting the price paid by the 58,000 American service members killed in Vietnam and the 1,643 still listed as missing in action.

Other Memorial Day ceremonies were held at North County cemeteries in Santa Maria, Orcutt, Lompoc and Guadalupe. 

Additionally, Lompoc residents gathered in the afternoon to celebrate the completion of a multiyear effort to renovate the Lompoc Veterans Memorial Building on Locust Avenue.

The Santa Maria Elks paused during rodeo preparations to hold a short ceremony for Memorial Day on Monday afternoon at the Santa Maria Elks/Unocal Event Center.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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