By Debbie Teofilo
Special to the Sun
Veterans Day events were so numerous throughout the Kern River Valley this past week that there were not enough veterans to fill them all. This is an indication both of an increasing desire to honor them, and of the dwindling number of veteran service members. Each participating veteran was showered with gratitude and respect for their sacrifices made for our country.
The culminating Veterans Day program was a celebration held at the Kern River Valley Cemetery on Saturday, November 11. A beautiful sunny morning greeted veterans and their families at the ceremony organized by the KRV Public Cemetery District and the local VFW. Festive red, white, and blue flags, banners, and clothing were proudly displayed, and several rousing All-American songs were sung by the Sweet Adelines Kern Valley Chorus, all adding to the patriotism of the event.
Kern County First District Supervisor Mick Gleason gave the keynote address. A Navy veteran, Gleason understands the solidarity of military service members who bravely serve their country by putting their lives at risk to protect its freedoms. “Eight generations of Americans have always answered the call, and they always will,” he said.
Gleason reminded attendees that “Veterans are ordinary people performing extraordinary feats, and they did it for us. And for that, we are extraordinarily grateful.” He stated we must honor them by continuing to defend the freedoms they fought for, and by taking care of those veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much. Pastor Chris Wenzel echoed this sentiment by saying, “Veterans are willing to lay down their lives, so what price do we pay them in return?”
Jeanette Rogers Erickson spoke of her late husband, World War II and Korea War veteran Charlie Erickson, who had told her that until he came to the Kern River Valley, no one had ever come up to him and thanked him for the service he had given to his country. She stated, “It is a responsibility that we have to teach our children about the gifts of being an American,” and to be grateful for those who protect them.
In current times, children need to be taught what it means to protect our freedom, since today they have fewer close relatives who could demonstrate it by being veterans themselves. In 1990, 40 percent of Americans had a parent who was a veteran, but in 2014 only 16 percent did. The number of living U.S. veterans has dwindled in number to 18.5 million, and they are aging, with over 50 percent of them age 65 or older. Now that veterans are finally being appreciated, there are fewer of them to honor and to serve as examples of valor and sacrifice.
During the many community Veterans Day programs this past week, children clearly demonstrated their gratitude and genuine pride for all veterans. It is an indication that the KRV is already well on the way to insuring that a ninth generation of heroes is waiting in the wings should they be called upon to serve our country.