sound of wind and percussion instruments playing military marches and patriotic songs filled the air, surrounding veterans, families, friends and dignitaries as they gathered at the Central Park Veterans Memorial on May 29, under cloudy skies, for Santa Clara’s Memorial Day Ceremony. They came to remember and honor the military men and women who fought and, too often, gave their lives for freedom in the United States and around the world.
“I signed an oath to defend this country, and it hasn’t been rescinded. It’s still alive,” said John Rodriguez, an American Legion (Motorcycle) Rider and Patriot Guard Rider who served in the Army from 1959 to 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Cindi and Ken Sweet came to honor all veterans but especially their fathers, who served in the Air Force during the Korean War. They remembered Cindi’s uncle, who served in the Army and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, and her brother, now serving in the Navy.
“Everything that we have, whether it be to go celebrate or shop or go to school or work, it all came because of someone sacrificing, paving the way before us,” said Cindi.
One by one, dignitaries came forward, performing ceremonial rituals. Fire Chief Bill Kelly and Assistant Police Chief Dan Winter raised the American Flag. Santa Clara University ROTC Cadets presented a red wreath to Mayor Lisa Gillmor and City Councilmembers Debie Davis and Patricia Mahan, who placed it in the circular memorial. Joey Soria led the Pledge of Allegiance. Miss Silicon Valley 2015 Melissa Gialdini sang the “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Hope Lutheran Church Associate Pastor Jim Clark Moore, a drill sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve, gave the invocation. Gillmor and State Assemblymember Kanasen Chu presented the Veterans Memorial Committee with certificates of recognition, honoring them for building the memorial, dedicated on Veterans Day 2002. Others made brief remarks.
As in past years, the keynote speaker was 87-year-old Gunnery Sergeant William (Denny) Weisgerber, a Marine Corps veteran and recipient of the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart.
Weisgerber, who lost a leg in Korean War combat, stood tall and spoke in a strong, clear voice.
“It is our sacred duty to keep the legacy of our nation’s patriots forever fresh in the memories of future generations,” said Weisgerber. “We are bound by honor to do so. They fought and died to preserve this land of hopes and dreams.”
The ceremony closed with a seven-rifle salute and the 24 mournful notes of taps played by Cupertino Symphonic Band member Ned Snow. As the band again played, people chatted and snapped photos with Weisgerber. Some searched for the engraved pavement bricks honoring their loved ones who served in the military.
Christine Le and her son, Nick Pence, handed out red roses.
“We came here to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and for my son to be grateful for the sacrifices made,” said Le. “He can share that with his circle of friends at his school and raise awareness about this event as a good citizen of Santa Clara.”
Francisco and Cynthia Guerrero’s son Jonathon Guerrero is in the Marine Corps in San Diego.
“We’re so proud of our son,” said Cynthia. “We want to show our other children to honor our men and women who served our country. We don’t want them to forget that.”
Girl Scout Troop 60609 leader Nicole McLaone led the troop in presenting handmade thank you cards to Korean War Army veteran Donald Paulson and other surviving veterans of war, from WWII through today’s Global War on Terror.
They will not be forgotten in Santa Clara.
Funds from the sale of brick pavers engraved in honor or memory of a loved one help to maintain the Veterans Memorial. Visit www.santaclaraveteransmemorial.com for information.