El Cajon honors U.S. veterans in a moving ceremony

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Military veterans are very important to the people and City Council of El Cajon. On Wednesday, the day after Veterans’ Day, a special ceremony was held at the Civic Center Plaza honoring U.S. veterans.
An event made possible by the El Cajon Veterans’ Commission and the City of El Cajon, Public Information Officer Monica Zech began the event with the POW/MIA Empty Chair ceremony.

Military veterans are very important to the people and City Council of El Cajon. On Wednesday, the day after Veterans’ Day, a special ceremony was held at the Civic Center Plaza honoring U.S. veterans.
An event made possible by the El Cajon Veterans’ Commission and the City of El Cajon, Public Information Officer Monica Zech began the event with the POW/MIA Empty Chair ceremony.
“Note the table for one at the right of the stage,” Zech said. “That is for the veterans who are still out there as POWS or MIAs. We thank all of you for your service. We have not forgotten you.”
The Hillsdale Middle School Symphonic Band played the anthem, and the U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego Color Guard presented colors.
Councilmember Tony Ambrose stepped up to the podium. “You [veterans] did not decide where you were sent to war, you just went,” he said.
Ambrose quoted the novelist Tom Clancy: “The U.S. military is us. There is no truer representation of a country than the people that it sends into the field to fight for it. The people who wear our uniform and carry our rifles into combat are our kids, and our job is to support them, because they’re protecting us.”
Councilmember Star Bales said she had a story to tell about a young girl who dreamed of a place where there was freedom, she dreamed of coming to America, but it was so far away. When that girl grew up, she did come to America. She had travelled so far that she thought she had earned freedom. She learned English and her new country’s history.
Tears came to Bales’ eyes. “And she learned that if not for the veterans, there would not be the America we know today. She did not earn her freedom by coming here. It was simply passed on to her by those people who had fought to keep freedom,” she said.
When Bales took her seat again, it was Councilmember Bob McClellan’s turn to speak. “In case some of you don’t know, that was Star’s story. Those of us who were born here might take for granted the freedom that Star dreamed about.
“Our founding fathers knew that the only reason for government was protection of the people—through the police and fire departments and our military. We thank you all for what you did. God bless you,” McClellan said.
After 8th grader Zoe Glenn played Taps and colors were retired, everyone was invited to have a piece of the cake provided by the City Council. When asked what the ceremony meant personally to him, Veterans’ Commission member George Glover choked up.
“Anytime you can honor a vet, you should. They get so little in return for what they did,” said Glover, a Viet Nam era veteran of the Coast Guard. “I do think there is a lot more appreciation today for the veterans. That’s good to see.”
Clark said that Star Bales’ story was a good reminder of what the ceremony was all about.
“You only have to leave our borders a little while to figure out what freedom means,” he said.

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