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McKeon visits Valencia vets

Nearly 40 veterans live at Belcaro homes

Posted: May 27, 2008 1:50 a.m.
Updated: July 28, 2008 5:01 a.m.

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U.S. Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon visited a Valencia retirement community Monday afternoon to honor the nearly 40 veterans who live there.

The Memorial Day ceremony took place in the grassy courtyard behind the Belcaro recreation center, the Grove House, with veterans seated in three rows and other residents and guests scattered around them at tables.

McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) had the veterans stand when he called out the branch of the armed forces in which they had served.

"We're really honored to be in your presence," McKeon, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the veterans. "We appreciate all you've done to ensure our freedom."

Charlie Meter stood up three different times when McKeon was calling out the branches of the armed forces. Meter started out in the Naval Reserves, then served active duty with the Marine Corps in Korea and, while working for 46 years for the Los Angeles Police Department, he was also a member of the Coast Guard Reserve, in charge of a search and rescue boat in the Channel Islands.

"I was very impressed with Congressman McKeon, because I know that everything he says about our armed services is sincere - he's not talking out of both sides of his mouth," the Belcaro resident said.

"(McKeon's) a friend of all servicemen, whether they're active or inactive, and we need more politicians like him."

McKeon shook the hand of each veteran in attendance while event organizers Mamie Patin and Vanessa Wilk handed out special recognition certificates provided by McKeon's office.

"It seems like so little to just have one day a year to thank you for your service," McKeon said.

After the ceremony, dinner was served and guests were given the opportunity to visit a Memorial Museum set up in the card room of the Grove House with artifacts belonging to some of the community's veterans. Belcaro resident Jerry Schwartz, 73, gathered together the uniforms, newspapers, medals, pictures, maps and military currency for the display.

Schwartz was a crew chief on a helicopter during the Korean War.

"We used to fly the Bob Hope show around - that was a long time ago," Schwartz said.

Most of the newspapers on display were from Schwartz' own private collection. He started collecting them back before his children were born, and has newspapers with front page headlines announcing the truce in Vietnam, the deaths of President Truman and Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the funeral of President Kennedy.

"Why I collected them, I have no idea," Schwartz said. "But they sure came in handy for the museum."

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