Members of the Patterson Fire Department hoisted a giant U.S. flag over Plaza Circle as more than 200 attendees gathered in the downtown park.
Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and American Heritage girls clamored toward the microphone to honor their loved ones who served in the military to remember the sacrifices of military members.
Many of the honored veterans were younger as well, including service members who had fought in more recent conflicts in the Middle East. They mingled with those who had served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
“We’re pushing youth, kids and dedication,” said Mike Anderson, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 168, as he reflected Wednesday on Monday’s ceremony.
Joseph Fernandez, a 2008 local high school graduate, says he believed troops were making progress in Afghanistan.
“When I first went (to Afghanistan), it was complete chaos,” he recalled of his 2008 tour.
During his second tour, the atmosphere was more controlled, with local police forces taking the helm of security matters in many areas, he said.
Mayor Luis Molina, 47, who served in Operation Desert Storm, also was among the younger veterans in attendance. He urged attendees to continue to honor veterans and their service to the U.S.
“As a former United States Marine and somebody who has served in this country’s first Gulf War, I am proud — I am proud of the people that I have served with,” he said. “I understand the sacrifices you’ve all made.”
City Councilman Dominic Farinha spoke about the sacrifices veterans have made throughout the country’s history.
Similar to last year’s event, a Boy Scout color guard took down the regular U.S. flag flown over South Park and replaced it at half-mast with a flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 11, 2011.
Scouts and American Heritage girls, who have been involved in past ceremonies, had an event bigger role this year, holding up banners representing each of the U.S. Armed Forces while each branch’s song was played.
Youths also were asked to speak about what Veterans Day meant to them. Most of the students spoke about family members who have served in the Armed Forces or who are currently serving.
This year’s event also included the performance of “God Bless America” by the Creekside Middle School band.
Both Anderson and Amy Hussar, historian for American Legion Post 168, said this week the American Legion was thankful for the participation of everyone involved, including the local fire department and the youth organizations, and happy to see all of the people who showed up.
Anderson said the American Legion intentionally sought to get a younger crowd involved in this year’s event, noting that the average age of Post 168 members is about age 70. As a result, it’s imperative that the Legion obtain more members from recent conflicts, he said.
“If we go young, we’ll survive,” he said. “I we don’t go young, then they’ll close the doors and shut out the lights.”
Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187, ext. 26, or email@example.com.