Photos by Raiza Giorgi

By Raiza Giorgi

Applause greeted every local veteran who stood as his era of service was announced, from World War II through the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, but the longest and loudest applause was for the Vietnam-era veterans.

People packed the Solvang Veterans Memorial Hall to honor local veterans from all generations.

Several hundred people gathered for the local Veterans Day celebration at the Solvang Veterans 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 3rd District county supervisor Joan Hartmann.

The ceremony started with the raising of flags outside by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7139 and was followed by speeches indoors from local military dignitaries including VAFB Col. Pete Flores, 14th Air Force Operations Commander.

Another featured speaker was U.S. Marine Corps veteran Steven Kester of Santa Ynez, who served in Vietnam while on active duty from 1968-71. In the fierce two-week battle of Hiep Duc Valley, 14 of his fellow Marines were killed. More than 80 Americans were killed and 400 others wounded.

“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 attending the ceremony were also treated to lunch after patriotic songs performed by the Santa Ynez Master Chorale and the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School Band.