The Veterans Memorial stands tall and proud on the corner of Bonita and Wheeler avenues, just as veterans and active service members did Wednesday as community members applauded them for their courage at the City of La Verne’s Veterans Day ceremony.
“You have given us security, you have given us prosperity and you have given us the greatest nation on Earth,” Maj. Duc Vo with the Army National Guard said as he honored the veterans at the ceremony.
A parade of more than 50 University of La Verne students, faculty, veterans from La Verne and community members welcomed guests to the ceremony with signs reading “we love vets,” and chants and cheers for all of the veterans.
“We are voted the number one school for veterans so we have to resemble that,” Jason Fuentes, junior political science major said. “We have to resemble that and participate in these events, we can’t be hypocritical, and we have to engage with them.”
The Band of Brothers, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 102034, hosted the Veterans Day ceremony.
Veteran Dan Harden, master of ceremonies for La Verne’s Veterans Day ceremony for the last 20 years and former City of La Verne councilman, welcomed Pastor Lincoln Dial from Calvary Baptist church in La Verne to say an opening prayer.
“We thank you for the courage you have given these men and women to defend our country for many, many years,” Dial said.
Prominent members of the community, including U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano and La Verne Mayor Don Kendrick, also attended the event to show their support for veterans.
“I am honored to be a veteran and I am honored to say thank you to every single one of you today,” Kendrick said.
The crowd stood in unison as the La Verne Lutheran High School Jr. ROTC hoisted the U.S. flag.
The ROTC was followed by a singing of the national anthem and a rifle volley, where three blank cartridges were fired into the sky.
A recorded military medley played to recognize the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Veterans stood as their branch’s song sounded and the audience thanked them with applause.
Vo took the podium next and spoke of the bond veterans share.
“May we remain forever bounded by our service,” Vo said. “We must always be there for one another.”
Vo emphasized that Veterans Day is not a day to mourn, but a day to triumph and reflect on their service.
“Memorial Day is for silence,” Vo said. “Veterans Day is a day for joy and celebration.”
Vo also reflected on the fact that many veterans return home emotionally and physically injured after serving, and some do not return home at all.
“Let us remember those who have served our country and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and are not here today,” Vo said.
Navy veteran and ULV CAPA biology major Manlio Gamero enjoyed the ceremony because he said he feels comfortable when he is around his fellow veterans.
“It is important because it is an experience not many go through,” Gamero said. “Once you leave it behind, you kind of lose your self identity, so it is nice to have that same sense of camaraderie again.”
Although the ceremony involved a lot of thanking veterans, Gamero said it feels strange when people thank him for his service.
“I don’t consider myself a hero,” Gamero said.
Harden ended the ceremony by telling some of the stories he has heard in his 20 years of emceeing La Verne’s Veterans Day ceremony.
World War II sailors who faced enemy torpedoes, servicemen who survived imprisonment abroad, and those who fought communists in the cold of Korea, the enemy in the deserts of Iraq and the steaming jungles of Vietnam are just a few examples of the stories he has heard over the years.
“You can tell a lot of a person by what they are willing to die for, and freedom is a pretty good cause to die for,” Harden said.
Brooke Grasso can be reached at email@example.com.