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Packed house at Lafayette/Walnut Creek Veterans Day ceremony

By Jonathan Morales
Thursday, November 12th, 2009 at 11:46 am in Uncategorized.

Since my story today about Veterans Day ceremonies took a decidedly regional approach, there wasn’t much space for items from yesterday’s joint Lafayette/Walnut Creek event at the Veterans Memorial Building in Lafayette.

The hour-long event drew a standing-room-only crowd. There were no official counts, but the building’s Web site says the full hall seats 340 in auditorium mode, and there were easily dozens of people (myself included) standing in the back and along the sides.

Lafayette Mayor Don Tatzin and Walnut Creek Mayor Gary Skrel both gave remarks, and the keynote address was given by retired Marine Corps Col. Allan Cruz. He said Veterans Day is not just a time to remember veterans’ sacrifice, but to honor and earn that sacrifice in our actions.

“While it is important and easy to say it is important, the thing that makes it valid is to live a good life,” he said.

A number of veterans were singled out for special recognition, including a Walnut Creek couple who met during World War II and will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary soon, and Stephan Zusman, an Acalanes grad who has served two tours of duty in Iraq.

All veterans present were recognized when the Walnut Creek Concert Band played “Armed Forced Salute,” a medley of all five military hymns. Veterans from each branch of the military rose to be acknowledged when their respective hymn was played: Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Air Force and Navy.

When the Navy hymn played, Walt Snow, a Rossmoor resident who was a naval flight instructor during World War II, turned around in his front row seat, raised his hands high and with a big smile on his face, saluted the audience and his fellow sailors.

Walt parked up the hill near me, and I walked to and from the ceremony with him. He told me the event was nice, but he’s had enough war.

“I think its good to have the celebration,” he said. “I wish the wars would stop.”

“We went through a lot of trouble,” he continued. “I lost a lot of my friends in the fleet. Good guys.”

Herman Alvarado, a World War II Navy veteran, has spent the last 25 years volunteering at a VA hospital. He said people sometimes forget the sacrifices veterans made.

“I believe (by) celebrating (we) make the people more concious about what it’s all about,” he said. “Many people ignore all the sacrifices we’ve been through.”

Bob Tharratt served in the Army and Air Force from 1943-1945. He was shot down in Europe and spent 9 months as a POW in Germany. He said it’s important to continue commemorating Veterans Day, especially at a time when the country is involved in two wars.

“The more people understand, the less chance (the enemy will) have. When we have people that are against democracy, against freedom of the press, freedom of people, somebody has to go to the rescue,” he said.

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