New flags and a renewed sense of pride grace Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall following a Sunday morning ceremony held to honor those who have served in the armed forces.
Hundreds filled each seat, with many more standing to take part in the annual Veterans Day ceremony hosted by the City of Santa Clarita.
Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami thanked those who had served and those who are currently serving, praising them for their service and allowing him to exercise a certain right, alluding to last week’s election.
“Today we celebrate those who risked their lives, and in some cases paid the ultimate sacrifice, so we can have the right to vote,” Blazer said. “People of different faiths, different backgrounds, have made this an amazing country,” he added.
Members of Valencia High School’s JROTC class stunned the crowd of hundreds with a rifle demonstration, which preceded a rendition of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” performed by 4 of Hart’s, a group of Hart High School students.
“Today and tomorrow, whatever religion you are, wherever you worship, please give your prayers to those who have served over our 236 years of being a proud nation,” Santa Clarita Mayor Frank Ferry said.
“We can’t forget those who have given their lives to keep America safe and free,” Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Marsha McLean said. “They are not here today to be honored and thanked, and since 2001, 11 members of our community have lost their lives serving our country,” she said.
Vietnam veteran John Olesh (Navy Seabees) was singled out for special recognition.
Armed force service is more than an accomplishment for retired Master Sergeant Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez, who after serving in the United States Air Force for 23 years helps others “take control of the handlebars of life.”
“I had no family, no place to lay my head,” Lewis-Fernandez said. “I was alone and had no one to turn to,” she said.
“From the moment I took the oath I realized that being in the military was so much more than wearing a uniform or carrying a gun,” she said. “Everywhere you turn, you had people to help you, people who had your back no matter what,” she added.
“It was that deep connection, that special camaraderie that made the difference,” Lewis-Fernandez said.
In return for her commitment, the 23-year armed forces vet asked for appreciation for her service, and the service of others.
“I’m not asking you to leave your family and go to war,” she said. “I’m asking you to stand up and put your hand over your heart when you hear the national anthem played at an event,” she said.
Lewis-Fernandez alluded to a quote from former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, “A nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.”