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Locals crowd ballroom to pay tribute to Santa Clarita war veterans

Posted: July 11, 2013 6:00 p.m.
Updated: July 11, 2013 6:00 p.m.

Korean War veteran Chuck Morris, left, is recognized by Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar at the Patriot Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Thursday. Signal photo by Jonathan Pobre.

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Moving tributes paid to eight Santa Clarita veterans of war on Thursday caused some grown men in the audience to wipe tears away from their eyes as family members and friends recounted war experiences and life achievements of the veterans.

In an overcrowded ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Valencia, the SCV Chamber of Commerce sponsored its third annual Patriots Luncheon to veterans of World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars and Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield.

Honored were World War II veterans Fred Lionetti and Donald H. LaFond, Korean War veteran Chuck Morris, Vietnam veterans Mike Bertell, Nick Callas, Dana Stobin and Robert Scobie, and Todd Sharbutt from the Operations Desert Shield/Storm operation.

Kicking off the tribute, Mayor Bob Kellar recalled the day in 2011 when thousands of Santa Clarita residents lined city streets to honor Rudy Acosta, a casualty of the war in Afghanistan.

“He became the eleventh member of the military we’ve lost since 9-11,” Kellar said.

Speaking on behalf of WWII veteran Fred Lionetti, granddaughter Josie honored the man with a moving tribute about how he shaped, influenced, supported and loved the people he has known in his lifetime.

Born in 1926, Lionetti was distinguished in both military and civilian life, winning an honor as Top Banker in the San Fernando Valley in 2002, Josie said.

Calling him a one-man employment service, friend Peter Blau said many bankers laid off during the recession called Lionetti.

“He’d give them leads and tell the callers to mention his name,” Blau said. “His name opened doors.”

When daughter Laura Kirchoff spoke on behalf of her 89-year old father and WWII veteran, Donald LaFond, he stood through the lengthy tribute despite recovering from a broken hip.

LaFond organized the city of Santa Clarita to become designated as a Purple Heart City in honor of its veterans, and the City Council did so on Feb. 12 this year, Kirchoff said.

When Chuck Morris, Korean War veteran, was introduced by Kellar, he was also recognized as having spent more than a year to bring the Vietnam War Memorial Wall to Santa Clarita.

The traveling wall will be at the Westfield Valencia Town Center Sept. 26 through Sept. 29.

Audience members rose to a standing ovation for each of the tributes paid to Santa Clarita’s veterans.

Kellar, a member of the Army himself from 1965 through 1967, reminded people to never forget their veterans or fail to welcome them back from war, as Americans did returning soldiers from the Korean and Vietnam wars.

A number of city officials, police and fire department representatives attended to honor the men, along with Kellar and Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita.


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