Participants in wars past and present got their due this weekend as the community turned out to honor its veterans.
Monday is the observed holiday but all weekend parades and ceremonies marked Veterans Day, the day that commemorates the signing of an armistice that ended hostilities between Allied forces (American, British, French and Italian), and Germany on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month during World War I in 1918.
Schools got in on the action early as Santa Barbara High held its annual vigil for Dons who had fought and died on the battlefield on Friday. Later in the day, red, white and blue-clad schoolkids marched up and down a block of Cathedral Oaks in Goleta in a mini-parade complete with tiny floats and noisemakers. What the Coastline Christian Academy children lacked in size they made up for in enthusiasm as they marched and tooted their way down the street and back again.
A more serious procession took place on Saturday morning, as veterans of wars from World War II to Desert Storm made their way from the Veterans Memorial Building on Cabrillo Avenue up State Street. Marchers wore camouflage or dress uniforms and either walked up the approximately two-mile-long parade route or rode military vehicles.
“I’m glad we’re honoring our veterans,” said Vietnam veteran Joe Garcia, who joined onlookers and supporters who greeted, thanked and cheered the veterans as they passed by. “We need to remember these people risked their lives for our country.” Regardless of whether or not we agree with the current war in Iraq, the men and women who are in it deserve our respect, he added.
Congresswoman Lois Capps was also part of the Saturday parade and Sunday ceremonies, expressing her gratitude to the veterans and attending a memorial for Korean War veterans.
Meanwhile, others took the opportunity to commemorate by visiting Arlington West, a 4-year old installation of crosses on East Beach that honors the men and women who have fought and died in Iraq. Initially intended to mark each of the fallen soldiers, the project topped out at 3,000 crosses last January. For many visitors, however, the memorial continues to be their connection to their lost loved ones.
“It really brings home the price people are willing to pay for our country,” said Julie Smith, who came out with her friend to see the parades as well as the memorial. Several of her friends and acquaintances, she said, have fallen in Iraq. “Our veterans are special people.”
Smith’s friend agreed, as she surveyed the crosses grimly. One of her closest friends is in Iraq, she said.
“I hope he gets the chance to come home and be a veteran.”