By: JD Kennedy, District Representative Congressman McKeon CA 25 District
Welcome to the final ceremony of the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall’s visit to Santa Clarita Valley and thank you for coming tonight. We have a great program lined up for you tonight but before we begin, I’d like to highlight and thank some of the key players who have made this week possible:
Andy Gump provided, as they always do, the fencing and restroom facilities for us this week. Andy Gump comes through time and again for us in Santa Clarita and we’re proud to have had them as a partner this week.
Feather’s Printing provided our programs and other printed materials for us this week.
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SoCal Gas came through with a large financial contribution and is always found supporting the community. Our local radio station, KHTS 1200 am. Carl and Jeri Goldman have been instrumental every step of the way and they deserve a thank you for all they do.
Total Financial Solutions owner, Arif Halaby, coordinated the name reading that has gone 24 hours a day.
Valencia Auto Group came through with a financial contribution and have been great partners.
The Westfield Valencia Town Center provided us with the location, parking and has been with us planning this every step of the way.
Choppe Advertising has helped with promoting and getting the word out. I’ve seen visitors from throughout the region travel to pay their respects and without a good advertising and promotion effort, those people may not have known they had an opportunity to do so. Thank you Choppe Advertising.
SCV Party Rentals provided us with tables, chairs, canopies and the stage. SCV Party Rentals is always good to the community and we thank them for all their work.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Friendly Valley Veterans Club, lead by Chuck Morris. This whole idea originated with the Friendly Valley Veterans Club over a year ago and its been a long road getting here, but Santa Clarita sure did it again and has done something we can all be proud of. Chuck Morris has lead the planning of this event and the whole way, his goal has been to impact and pass on to our next generation the importance of the sacrifices made by our nation’s heroes, specifically those who served in Vietnam and did not make it home to us.
For the past 4 days, we’ve seen the Wall behind me visited by thousands, if not, tens of thousands, many of whom are the youth we set out to have an impact on. I was talking to Chuck Friday morning and he told me that on Thursday night, he watched and listened as a young boy, 9 or 10 years old, holding his mother’s hand, walked her up to the wall and explained to her what the Vietnam Memorial Wall meant and why those names are on the wall.
Chuck, I’d say, mission accomplished! Thank you for all your work and all you do. Santa Clarita is fortunate to have you.
To open the program, we have the presentation of colors by the Santa Clarita Boy Scouts. Please stand.
Please follow me in the Pledge of Allegiance, as we pledge to the flag of the greatest nation on earth, the United States of America, for which the men whose names on this wall, we will never forget.
Place your right hand over your heart, ready, begin.
Please remain standing as Elliot Witherspoon sings America the Beautiful.
Thank you, Elliot
Again, if you’ll remain standing, Minister Melissa McKennon of Santa Clarita Methodist Church will lead us in an invocation. Before she does, I’d like to ask for a moment of silence for our hometown Vietnam Veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice. You may have noticed in the front of the seating area, 14 reserved, empty chairs. These seats are reserved as a symbol that these men will never be forgotten. They made the ultimate sacrifice and laid down their lives so that we can live freely. Please keep each of these men and their families in your prayers.
Thank you, Melissa. Please be seated.
It is my honor to introduce to you our key note speaker tonight. He is the District Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I’d like to share with you a brief history of the VFW.
The VFW traces its roots back to 1899 when veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection founded local organizations to secure rights and benefits for their service: Many arrived home wounded or sick. There was no medical care or veterans’ pension for them, and they were left to care for themselves.
Some of these veterans banded together and formed organizations with what would become known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. After chapters were formed in Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania, the movement quickly gained momentum. By 1936, membership was almost 200,000.
Since then, the VFW’s voice has been instrumental in establishing the Veterans Administration, creating a GI bill for the 20th century, the development of the national cemetery system and the fight for compensation for Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange and for veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome.
Besides helping fund the creation of the Vietnam, Korean War, World War II and Women in Military Service memorials, the VFW in 2005 became the first veterans’ organization to contribute to building the new Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial, which opened in November 2010.
Annually, the nearly 2 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliaries contribute more than 8.6 million hours of volunteerism in the community, including participation in Make A Difference Day and National Volunteer Week.
It is with great pleasure I introduce to you, VFW District Commander, Gary Mitchell.
Thank you, Gary.
Before we wrap up the program tonight, we’ve got a presentation. I’d like to ask members of our local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America to join me on stage. As they make their way up, I’d like to tell you a little about our Vietnam Veterans.
Most of our Vietnam Veterans returned home to a country that failed to differentiate between the war and the troops who served. They simply weren’t welcomed home.
Many today have still never been told the simple words, “Welcome Home.” Even the Veteran Service Organizations who were created to do just that, shunned our Vietnam Veterans. This lead to the formation of a new Veteran Service Organization, the Vietnam Veterans of America. Their founding principle:
Never again, will one generation of veterans abandon another.
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Our local chapter, Chapter 355, has met this mission for over 28 years. They serve Vietnam Era Veterans and families in Santa Clarita, Antelope Valley, Simi and San Fernando Valley, Kern County and Mojave. Chapter 355 advocates Veteran issues, seek healthcare and VA compensation and support our military and troops serving while serving our immediate community.
Just a few years ago when I was transitioning back to civilian life, I stumbled onto this great group of men and women and I want to assure you they are meeting their mission. Today’s generation of transitioning Vets return home to a warm welcome, especially in the Santa Clarita Valley, because of the mission you, our Vietnam Veterans, set out to accomplish.
I’d like to ask all of our Vietnam Veterans with us tonight to stand, as well.
For almost 4 years, I’ve had the honor and privilege of representing our Congressman, Buck McKeon. He had planned on being with us this week and was looking forward to honoring you all with us tonight. Unfortunately, circumstances in Washington wouldn’t permit his attendance but he asked me to give you this simple message:
You served us well and it is an honor to have you as part of our community.
For our Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 355, I’d like to present you with a small token of our appreciation. On behalf of Congressman McKeon, I’d like to present you with a flag flown over the capitol in your honor. Thank you for your continued service and Welcome Home.
As part of our effort to connect with and impact the students in Santa Clarita, we have had an essay competition for a scholarship. At this time, I’d like to ask Chuck Morris, President of the Friendly Valley Veterans Club, to make those presentations.
Thank you, Chuck.
And now, the All Veterans Honor Squad will present a 21 Gun Salute. Please stand.
Please remain standing and Rabbi Mark Blazer will lead us in a closing prayer which will be followed by TAPS played by Bob Danis.
That concludes the program for this evening. Again, I’d like to thank you all for coming out and honoring our Vietnam Veterans and all who have sacrificed and served in uniform for our great nation. Thank you.
Source: Santa Clarita News