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Honoring vets' sacrifices

Posted: November 11, 2008 8:51 p.m.
Updated: November 12, 2008 4:59 a.m.

The color guard for the Veterans Day ceremonies held at the Veterans Historical Plaza was the Young Marines - similar to Army ROTC - who carried the flags in to begin the event.

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Hundreds of people stood silently as the sound of traffic on Newhall Avenue surrounded them.

Many bowed their heads. Some watched the flags waving above them. Others looked around.

The group of families, veterans and supporters gathered Tuesday at Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall to share two minutes of silence, part of Santa Clarita's Veterans Day ceremony.

The silence continued with a changing-of-the-flags ceremony led by the Santa Clarita Valley Young Marines and Knights of Columbus Santa Clarita Assembly.

For many in the audience, the event, which marked its second year on Tuesday, provided a way for the community to show its gratitude to veterans and soldiers.

"I think that we owe a thank you to the veterans who have served and died for our country and our freedom," said John Toungaian of Castaic, who with his wife, Janet, attended the ceremony for the first time.

Between 400 and 500 people were on hand - double last year's attendance, according to Phil Lantis, arts and events administrator for the city.

"I would like every American veteran to stand up and be recognized," Dick Jeffrey of the Santa Clarita Veteran's Memorial Committee told the crowd, which responded with claps and cheers. "God bless you one and all. Thank you for your service. We're proud of you."

Many who took the podium on stage expressed their gratitude through song as local students performed patriotic songs like the national anthem, "God Bless America" and "God Bless the USA."

Local performer Trish Lester, wearing an American flag print shirt, sang her song "Thank a Soldier" while playing the guitar.

Councilwoman Marsha McLean expressed her support for soldiers.

"This ceremony is about recognizing those who have defended our liberty," she said.

McLean offered her appreciation to families and friends of veterans by asking them to stand up and be recognized by the crowd.

Councilwoman Laurene Weste shared the history of the Veterans Historical Plaza, reaching back to 2000 when the now-lush Newhall park was a debris-strewn empty lot.

"Our city knew there was a story to be told here," she said.

Although not in attendance at Tuesday's ceremony, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, issued a statement about Veterans Day on Monday.

"Veterans Day provides us all the opportunity to personally thank those who have served our nation in the most extreme way, offering their lives to uphold the liberties and freedoms we value dearly.

"My gratitude goes to our brave men and women in uniform and their families for their unyielding dedication to the United States of America, its history and its future."

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