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Thursday, February 21 , 2019, 10:33 pm | Fair 46º

 
 
 
 
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North County Marks Veterans Day With Run, Ceremonies and Free Lunch

Air Force colonel reminds audience of the role of military members' families

Teenagers participate in A Run to Remember on Wednesday at the Santa Maria High School track in honor of Veterans Day.
Teenagers participate in A Run to Remember on Wednesday at the Santa Maria High School track in honor of Veterans Day.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

On the Santa Maria High School track on Wednesday, a group of teenagers walked or ran to show that not everyone viewed Veterans Day as just a day off. 

At locations throughout northern Santa Barbara County, people gathered for traditional ceremonies with speeches and songs.

And in the Santa Maria Veterans Memorial Community Center, hundreds of veterans united for a free meal hosted by a local attorney.

A Run to Remember marked its sixth year at the high school, making sure people don’t forget those who served, and noting the fallen warriors, including the son of organizer Monica Diaz. 

“It doesn’t take much at all to show our gratitude,” Diaz said. “It’s just a small portion of your day to honor any of our men and women that have given so much.” 

Marine Cpl. Joseph Heredia, 22, was critically wounded Nov. 10, 2004, in Iraq. A day later, Veterans Day 2004, his mom received notification of his injuries.

Memorials for Marine Cpl. Joseph Heredia and Army Spc. Kenny Alvarez, both Santa Maria High School graduates, sit near the track as A Run to Remember takes place Wednesday. Click to view larger
Memorials for Marine Cpl. Joseph Heredia and Army Spc. Kenny Alvarez, both Santa Maria High School graduates, sit near the track as A Run to Remember takes place Wednesday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

He died Nov. 20 in a military hospital in Germany. 

On Wednesday, participants walked or ran a mile for each fallen warrior, carrying a piece of paper with a their picture and biography.

“They’re all important,” Diaz said as participants tried to select photos to carry. 

Youth groups and sports teams, along with local residents and Vandenberg Air Force Base representatives, showed up throughout the 19-hour event, which began at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Donations will benefit Fisher House, which provides a place to stay for families with loved ones in military hospitals. A Fisher House in Germany provided shelter for Diaz when her son was injured.

A Run to Remember participants included Stephanie Foster, an Army veteran.

“It’s just been powerful,” she said. 

Santa Maria High senior Jose Llamas was among youth group members participating.

World War II veteran Tom Knott sits next to Col. Shane Clark, 30th Space Wing vice commander, at a Veterans Day ceremony in Santa Maria on Wednesday Click to view larger
World War II veteran Tom Knott sits next to Col. Shane Clark, 30th Space Wing vice commander, at a Veterans Day ceremony in Santa Maria on Wednesday (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“It feels like it’s my way to give back to the people,” he said, adding that he pushed himself Wednesday and ran more than he had in the past. “It’s a way to put myself a little bit in their shoes, walk a little bit of that mile that they have to go through everyday.”

At the Santa Maria Cemetery, approximately 75 people attended a ceremony during which Col. Shane Clark, 30th Space Wing vice commander, said more than 50 million people have worn the American military uniforms since 1776.

“Whether they served in war or time of peace, America’s veterans all share a common bond — their unwavering belief in the cause of freedom,” Clark said. “They believe so strongly they’re willing to give their lives, if need be, in its defense.”

Nearly a million veterans have made the ultimate sacrifice in combat and combat-related events, he noted. 

Wednesday marked the 62nd year America celebrated Veterans Day, Clark said, noting the holiday’s roots at the end of World War I in 1918. 

“President Woodrow Wilson, always the idealist, called it ‘the war to end all wars’, and ordered that the armistice be commemorated in succeeding years,” Clark said, adding the Armistice Day was marked from 1919 to 1953. 

In 1954, the holiday became Veterans Day to pay homage to generations of military members.

With enemies of the United States persisting, and new threats like ISIL arising, military members continue to face deployments, Clark said. 

Currently, Vandenberg has 138 airmen deployed to nine countries around the globe, he added.

Clark also noted the role of families of veterans, citing an example close to home.

While his dad served in Vietnam War as a psychological operations officer attached to the 101st Airborne Division and later the 6th Psychological Operations Battalion, Clark’s mom gave birth to a baby girl. 

“A veteran’s choice to selfishly serve often trumps what many take for granted — in this case, supporting my mom during my sister’s birth,” Clark said. “It’s amazing how many sacrifices a veteran makes to serve our country.”

His dad moved 12 times during the first six years of his 24-year military career. 

“We ask much of our military families, uprooting spouses from their careers, children from their schools and friends, time and time again. It’s tough,” he added. “Military families are indeed a special breed and also deserve our thanks.”

Across Santa Maria, attorney Michael B. Clayton hosted his annual barbecue for veterans, expecting to serve at least 2,500 meals. Donations will go to Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter 982, he said.

Held since 2000, Clayton said, this year he saw an upswing in local private organizations offering to help in various ways. 

“That’s a huge success in our book,” he said. “Because we want the private people who were not in the military to come together to support the people who were in the military.”

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.

Hundreds of people showed up at the Santa Maria Veterans Memorial Community Center for a barbecue hosted by attorney Michael B. Clayton. Click to view larger
Hundreds of people showed up at the Santa Maria Veterans Memorial Community Center for a barbecue hosted by attorney Michael B. Clayton. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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