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Santa Clara Memorial Day Has Different Feel

“Camaraderie.”

That’s the word Navy veteran Rick Gundo used to describe the Santa Clara Memorial Day ceremony at Mission City Memorial Park.

Gundo led the American Legion 419 Honor Guard during the ceremony that brought together men and women from all branches of the military and several different generations of service.

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Army veteran “Slick” John Rodriguez, rode into the ceremony on the motorcycle he uses as a member of the Patriot Guard Riders. He says it was important to be at the event not just because of his service but his family’s service as well.

“I have a couple of cousins that fought in the Pacific and one fought in the European campaign…and then he did Korea,” said Rodriguez. “Then I have brothers-in-law that did Vietnam. So, you know, I got a history and I just found out through DNA that I go all the way back to the Civil War.”

Don Brown was discharged from the Navy in 1963. He was one of two buglers representing the American Legion 419 Honor Guard.

“It’s just an honor to honor the veterans,” said Brown.

Navy veteran Erich Hagan served from 1981-1996. He’s the newest member of the American Legion 419 Honor Guard and a first-timer at the Santa Clara event.

“It just seemed like something meaningful, you know, pay respects to the people who have lost so much for the country. It just had meaning to me,” said Hagan.

While this year’s ceremony was no less emotional in its purpose or impact, it was different. The event is usually held at the Veterans Memorial in Central Park but was changed to the cemetery.

“We look forward to it,” said Gundo. “Kind of disappointed that Santa Clara didn’t do their afternoon service because we were part of that every year. So, I was surprised to see that they canceled that.”

“We have been to the City of Santa Clara’s program at the Veterans Memorial at the park on Kiely and so I was looking forward to that,” said Barbara, who came to remember the people in her life that served. “It’s disappointing that the City of Santa Clara canceled it because that’s a beautiful Veterans Memorial there in an ideal location to honor our departed.”

For the City’s part, it says it was only contacted about hosting the event at Mission City Memorial Park and the City was happy to oblige.

“If next year, if somebody else or that group or any group wants to host it there or wherever, I absolutely encourage them to reach out to parks and let them know that they want to do it and I’m sure they’ll accommodate,” said Santa Clara Director of Communications Lon Peterson.

Despite the different location, the impact of the event remained the same.

“It’s very important to me to honor our country’s heritage,” said Julie. “I’ve always had a big gulp in my throat for all of the sacrifices, whether they’re living, sacrificing every day to conform to the needs to serve, or whether they’ve given their lives. It’s very powerful to me that I get to live freedom because of that.”

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