The one day to show our appreciation for their sacrifice
■ Chronicle News Staff
Hemet and San Jacinto celebrated Veterans Day on a Sunday this year with a series of events highlighted by ceremonies in Gibbel Park and a memorial at Golden Era Productions, among other acts to honor those who fought and died in the nation’s many wars.
Gibbel Park was the focus of the holiday throughout the prior week as the city erected no fewer than 1776 American flags on Nov. 3, each with a yellow ribbon tied to the flagpole.
Families and individuals arrived for the 9 a.m. ceremony at the Veterans Memorial attended by officials and members of the Hemet City Council, then spent the rest of the day visiting vendor booths and on-site demonstrations.
There was a classic car show, with prizes, sponsored by T.H.E. Equestrian Center. The crowd got to listen to music, participate in raffles, see jumper horses, and talk with vendors who were displaying their goods and services. Clubs and organizations took advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate their activities.
Burgers and onions
There were also food booths, including one sponsored by the Hemet Lions Club that offered hot dogs and hamburgers with grilled onions and cheese, and another serving tacos to the many families who showed up during the day. A number of Hemet restaurants served free meals on Sunday to the area’s veterans.
The Veterans Day event at Gibbel was dubbed the Sixth Annual Flags of Freedom tribute to the region’s veterans and was hosted by the Exchange Club in partnership with the cities of Hemet and San Jacinto. Dean Wetter, president of the Exchange Club, said: “This event is one way we want to show our appreciation and gratitude for the men and women who have given so much for our country so we can continue to live in freedom and enjoy the greatest democracy of the world.”
The Veterans Memorial at the southeast corner of Gibbel Park features little towers sticking up with wreaths and flags from all five armed service branches: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy.
The park has been plagued by vandals during the course of the year, people who stole the semi-precious metals from the memorial causing the city to have to recast them, not once but on three occasions. The destruction prompted the city to erect a high metal fence around the memorial, which now is being opened only during designated events. Attempts by a security firm to protect the memorial apparently haven’t been successful.
There were no homeless people to be found in Gibbel Park on Sunday, however, most of them having been relocated to Weston Park further east on Florida.
Hook and ladder truck
The Hemet Fire Department had its hook and ladder truck set up for kids to visit the cabin and take pictures of them inside the truck.
One group attending the Veterans Day event, the Inland Empire Military Vehicle Preservation Association, was a contingent of about 10 people who have refurbished military vehicles and equipment including items such as cannons and machine guns. Another booth featured a display of military uniforms from various branches of the service that were worn during past wars.
Special thanks for the event went out to: Curry Copy Center of Hemet, Larry & Sandy Minor, Wayne and Carol Minor, Hemet City Firefighters Association., Davis & Wojcik, a professional law corp., Agri-Empire, Chuck & Therese Steadman, Edward J. Formica DDS; American Legion Post #53, the Bank of Hemet, Jean Domenigoni and Family, Cozad & Fox, Inc., Quality Inn of Hemet, Gosch Ford/Toyota; Hemet High School Habitat for Humanity Student Chapter; American Legion; Sen. Dave Kelley, Ret.; Miller-Jones Mortuary; and Dr. Vidhya Koka, M.D.
Golden Era Productions
Meanwhile, more than 300 people came together on Veterans Day to honor the men and women of the country’s armed services for their bravery, dedication and their contribution to freedom in America. Golden Era Productions joined together with the Hemet Elks Lodge 1740 to put on this event joined by Boy Scout Troop 6006 and Troop 310, the San Jacinto High School R.O.T.C Rifle Exhibition team, the UCR Pipe band, the MSJC Community Band, the San Jacinto High School Jazz choir and numerous volunteers who donated their time to prepare a ceremony that was done to acknowledge veterans.
This Veterans Day ceremony focused on the military women who have served and the women who have worked in the background of those who have served. There were four speakers, all of whom were women and three of them had served in Vietnam.
On this Veterans Day the group focused on women who have served. The first speaker was Karen Revay, U.S. Army Major retired. Revay served for 21 years in the U.S. Army and retired as a major. As the story goes, when she retired, it took two men to replace her!
Dogs for veterans
The next speaker was Vietnam veteran and founder of A PawsAbility for Veterans, Sandy Dee. Sandy was medically discharged since she was no longer able to be deployed. She was put on 21 different medications and through the help of friends and watching a documentary called Hidden Enemy, she decided to take herself off of the 21 different pills she was taking. Her comfort was her dog, London. It was at that point that Dee wanted to help other veterans overcome the same dependencies so she started A PawsAbility for Veterans. As Dee stated, she wants to help fellow veterans and reduce the staggering number of veteran suicides.
The third speaker was U.S. Army E5 retired Sheryl Shaffer, a representative from the Women’s Veterans Alliance, a Veteran’s group that focuses on getting the services needed by female veterans. She created Veterans Helping Veterans TV show which is an award winning community educational access program that tells veterans’ stories.
Quilt of Valor
The final speaker was Rose Rhoads, wife of a veteran Army Ranger, who bestowed a Quilt of Valor upon Spc. 4 U.S. Army Retired Danny Crosser, who was earlier a recipient of the Presidential Distinguished Service Cross and Bronze Star Medal.
As Spc. Crosser told the audience, ”I was marching through the Vietnam jungle with my platoon on a mission to help another platoon company who were under attack so we could rescue them. All of sudden, bullets started flying and everyone was screaming and running. I looked around and it was a mess. I found a place behind a rock and heard from the colonel’s squawk box that was nearby that there are more than a thousand North Vietnam soldiers out there. I looked out and saw many of our guys lying wounded and in harm’s way, and while I heard the order to “pull back,” I knew I had to do something. The bullets were flying all around like buzzing bees and even one hit my helmet. I don’t remember how I did it, but I dragged two men who were wounded back to safety.”
When asked why?
Danny says,” I just knew I had to do it.”
When the dust settled, Danny saw these two men being flown away on a medivac helicopter and he never heard what became of them. His colonel knew what Danny had done and he knew the true story of why.
Danny said, “I never thought about it much because after I came back from Vietnam, those of us in the Vietnam War were rejected and spit on so I put my medals in a drawer and forgot about it. I really appreciate this now, even though it was so long ago.”
Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938.