Veterans Day Celebrated in Santa Clara
By Robert Haugh
Evoking tears and memories, the 2016 Santa Clara Veterans Day ceremony held on veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2016, honored all who have served. From those storming the beaches of Normandy, to those who endured hot, windy Middle Eastern sandstorms, to those treading in waist-high, cold waters and those currently fighting the war on terrorism, Veterans are rarely recognized for their sacrifices.
Their memories of fighting for freedom are heartfelt, often unbroadcasted, and sometimes surreal stories. Many of are etched into history at the Santa Clara Veteran’s Memorial at Central Park, with brief inscriptions leaving stories thousands of words in the making.
The event’s keynote speaker, Denny Weisgerber, retired Marine, Purple Heart and Navy Cross award winner once again inspired the over 350 people attending the annual event.
“Today we join as one people to pay a debt that we cannot truly never repay … Every year our humble thanks cannot be enough to honor the sacrifices of these great men and women … freedom is not bought, it is not free, it has a cost … We must always fight for our freedom. Because freedom isn’t free … Remember, it’s not what you take when you leave, it’s what you leave when you go … This is why America is still the land of the free and home of the brave,” said Weisgerber, former Milpitas Mayor and longstanding Santa Clara Veterans memorial Committee who was discharged as a staff sergeant after losing his leg in combat during the Korean War.
Glancing at the names stamped in the bricks, you’ll be surprised how long it might take to find just one name. Looking down at the inscriptions, you’ll find everyone from former Santa Clara City leaders, to NFL-star Pat Tillman, who left football to fend for the U.S. and lost his life fighting for our freedom, to a myriad of others. Generations of great men and women who voluntarily fought for our freedoms are forever memorialized in the stunning memorial, one of few that represents all military branches.
Vice Mayor Teresa O’Neill spoke about the City of Santa Clara’s history in supporting Veterans. “This memorial is a lasting tribute to the men and women who have served … The City Council unanimously supported this memorial and has a standing history of honoring veterans,” said O’Neill. She added that several years ago, the City hosted a WWII memorial as well as War Memorial Pool at Washington Ballpark. And, of course, War Memorial Playground.
O’Neill added that on special occasions, like Veterans Day, dozens of gleaming red, white and blue flags line the streets of Kiely Bldv.,
at Central Park, flags donated by the Mission City Community Fund and VFW. “The City flies these flags invoking a special feeling for many.”
Melissa Gialdini (nee Bowling), Miss Santa Clara 2010, performed the national anthem. Gialdini and reigning (2016) Miss Santa Clara Outstanding Teen Ashley Santos led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Speakers included Vice Mayor Teresa O’Neill, Congressman Mike Honda and representatives from local veterans organizations.
Former Director of Parks & Recreation Larry Wolfe served as the emcee. Mike Magierski (who ran the sound for the event) and his wife Barbara Magierski led the audience in singing God Bless America. Pastor Steve Roma of Resurrection Santa Clara Church conducted the invocation and benediction. Former Resurrection Church leader, Reverend William Schultz, who was long involved in past Santa Clara Veterans memorial events, recently retired to Oregon.
Congressman Mike Honda, Council members Pat Kolstad, Kathy Watanabe and Councilmember-elect Patricia Mahan, Fire Chief Bill Kelly, Police Chief Mike Sellers, Assembly-member-elect Kansen Chu, Santa Clara University ROTC/SCU Bronco Battalion cadets and several local leaders from veterans organizations also participated in the festivities.
The Patriot Guard Riders, Wounder Warrior Watch Guard and American Legion District 13 Riders were also present. Tony Lem, longstanding supporter of the veterans memorial, a flag expert, presented a special 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor to the City at the event. In addition, the Cupertino Symphonic Band provided live patriotic music at the event.
Dedicated on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2002, the Santa Clara Veterans Memorial was the brainchild of city residents Jim and Marlys Lee, Jim Ash and Ray Gamma, with those four presenting the idea to the City Council in 2001, developing the design, and raising the $260,000 to build it. The Memorial features granite pedestals highlighting each branch of the United States Military forces — Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Merchant Marine and Navy.
One of the memorial’s most unique features is its 5,000 paving bricks. For more information on the Santa Clara Veteran’s Memorial, or how to purchase a paving brick, call Veteran’s Memorial Chairman Jim Lee at 408-296-2512, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.santaclaraveteransmemorial.org.
Other events at the Memorial include an Easter Sunday sunrise ceremony at 6:30 a.m., and Memorial Day Ceremony.