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SCV veterans will always be remembered

Posted: November 15, 2008 9:47 p.m.
Updated: November 16, 2008 4:59 a.m.
The Santa Clarita City Council joined the community at the Veteran's Historical Plaza to salute the men and women of the United States armed forces on Veteran's Day Tuesday. The Santa Clarita City Council joined the community at the Veteran's Historical Plaza to salute the men and women of the United States armed forces on Veteran's Day Tuesday.
The Santa Clarita City Council joined the community at the Veteran's Historical Plaza to salute the men and women of the United States armed forces on Veteran's Day Tuesday.
I've long viewed Veterans Day through misty eyes. As the offspring of a proud, disabled World War II Navy vet, I couldn't have turned out any differently.

Raised on my father's narratives about courage and sacrifice for this great nation, I respected military service from the time I was old enough to place my hand over my heart.

Although Dad died in 1996, one tangible piece of him remains forever within my reach: his cap. A worn, revered relic of the escort carrier he served on, its faded stitching reads "USS Kadashan Bay CVE-76 Squadron VC-20."

When I hold that old chapeau to my face, I can still faintly detect the precious comingled fragrances of Aqua Velva and VO5. Regrettably, except for that prized cap and a couple of bronze medals, no other relics remain from my father's military years.

How I wish there were more mementos to cherish: perhaps a vintage uniform, shipboard diary, or his "dogtags."

How I also wish I'd sat at his knee more often, listening extra carefully as he recalled momentous experiences of his youth and witnessed American history.

Such ponderings hit home while at a poignant Veterans Day ceremony on Tuesday.

Held within our beautiful and serene Veteran's Historical Plaza in Old Town Newhall, the event saw many veterans in attendance - from elderly World War II heroes to young, brave faces now back from the Middle East.

Seeing them, I wondered, who will safeguard their military memories when they're gone? Wouldn't it be fantastic if they had a place to visit today that conserved their military possessions for future generations?

That said, I hereby suggest a positive way in which our town could honor its local military heroes: Build a veterans historical museum!

Dedicated to men and women who have served this nation through various branches of the military, the museum would preserve their memories through collections of military artifacts, documents, photographs, memorabilia, artwork and recordings.

As a former estate contents liquidator, I know all too well that these keepsakes often go to strangers when veterans die. Sold to "militaria" collectors, the items are made available when no one in the family survives to preserve them, or those who do live on cannot, or do not wish, to keep the objects.

In building a museum, our community would become the caring curator for our nation's history, keeping these valuables where they belong - and where our veterans should be remembered.

This would provide a major step beyond the Congress-created Veterans History Project, which is currently collecting and preserving first-hand remembrances from World War I veterans forward, including U.S. citizen civilians in support roles such as USO, war industry workers, flight instructors and medical volunteers.

(Local veterans Herbert Hightower and Morris Deason, and College of the Canyons, are graciously facilitating that important project - which eventually gets archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.)

I asked some local folks how they felt about a veterans' museum. Each emphatically expressed support.

Several said they hoped one will come to fruition before more of our aged vets leave this earth.
Newhall matriarch Thelma Ross says she'd definitely support a veterans' museum.

Ross, whose closest family members have served in our nation's armed forces (among them, her husband was in the Navy Air Corps in WWII; her daughter is a retired Marine lieutenant colonel; her granddaughter is currently in the Navy and stationed in Hawaii), says it's a commendable concept that deserves research and development.

"By doing that, these people will never be forgotten, including those who have gone before. They made us free, and they have kept us free. This is where they lived when they served, where many are living their final years. It's where their military memories belong," Ross said.

City Councilwoman Laurene Weste - a key activist in making our Historical Plaza a reality - says a veterans' museum would provide a beneficial means of honoring the military and carrying America's legacy into the future.

Acknowledging the undertaking will take money, work, and support from local government and the public, Weste expressed great interest in investigating the possibility of such a museum.

"You can't put a price on what our veterans have given us, and whatever we can do to so that the children of the future remember the price and are willing to carry it forward, we need to do that," Weste said.

A sensible site for this museum would be in Newhall near the Historical Plaza, Weste added.

Community activist and WWII veteran Harry Gratz concurs that it's high time such a museum was created in this valley.

"It will be a living tribute to those who fought to preserve our freedom and dignity," said 90-year-old Gratz, who had originally helped gather signatures for the Historical Plaza. "This museum will belong to us and to the world."

Purple Heart recipient and World War II veteran Tony Marincola expressed delight over a military museum possibly "coming home" to Santa Clarita.

"I think it would be great!" declared the spry Canyon Country resident, once wounded in the Battle of the Bulge while serving with the Army's 17th Airborne Division. "A lot of people would want to visit it. That's something my family would want to do."

Time is truly of the essence here, and the seasoned hero offered proof of that fact. For 54 years Marincola has attended reunions with members of his former military outfit. But those gatherings have now officially ended.

"We've had our last reunion. So many of us have died," the decorated veteran softly said.

As for building a local veterans' museum, it's a cause that would surely be adopted by veterans and their loved ones, including those who served several generations ago, Marincola said

"If I'm around," the 91-year-old added, "I'd also like to help."

Councilwoman Weste encourages anyone wishing to explore the idea of a local veterans' museum to contact her directly at (661) 259-CITY.

"It's a very expensive project but it's something we can start discussing," she said.

Who knows? Perhaps a very special cap and two bronze medals will find their comrades in that yet-to-be collection.

Diana Sevanian is a Santa Clarita resident. Her columns reflect her own opinions and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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