By Raiza Giorgi
As each veteran stood during their era of service from WWII through the Afghanistan/Iraq conflicts, the largest applause was for the Vietnam era veterans. The applause was long and loud. Several hundred people gathered to honor local veterans during the Veteran’s Day celebration at the Solvang Veteran’s Memorial Hall on Monday, Nov. 11.
“My father died as a result from the Korean War which left my mom as a single mother at the age of 36 with two little girls. It’s important to honor those that serve and their families for their sacrifice. I am so proud that my sister was one of the first few women in the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann.
The ceremony started with the raising of the flags outside by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7139 and was followed by speeches from local military dignitaries such as VAFB Col. Pete Flores, 14th Air Force Operations Commander. Another featured speaker was U.S. Marine Corps veteran Steven Kester, of Santa Ynez.
Kester was in active duty from 1968 – 71 and fought in Vietnam, in a particularly fierce two-week battle of Hiep Duc Valley. There were 14 of his fellow Marines killed in that battle which totaled more than 80 dead and 400 wounded Americans.
“The decision to join the Marines is life altering and it helped form bonds with men that to this day I still consider my best friends,” Kester said.
Those who came to the ceremony were also treated to lunch and patriotic songs performed by the SYV Master Chorale and the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School Band. The American Heritage Girls also sang “God Bless America”