OCEANSIDE — The Veterans Association of North County Resource Center was packed on Memorial Day with hundreds who came to remember and honor military men and women who gave their lives for our country.
The remembrance ceremony included keynote speakers, placing red, white and blue carnations on a simulated grave, a flag folding ceremony, and a choir singing the anthems of each major military branch.
Chuck Atkinson, VANC founder and president, said some people have lost sight of what the day is all about.
“A lot of times people lose sight of what this country’s all about,” Atkinson said. “They think about what I can get out of the country, rather than what I can give back.
“What we’d like to do is to bring some thought into what made this country so great, and that’s the men and women who’ve gone forward to fight for this country.”
James Jones, Vietnam Veteran and Veterans of Foreign War Post 10577 commander, was one of the day’s keynote speakers.
He said for him Memorial Day is a time to get together with fellow veterans to share war stories, laughs and connect.
“On a day like today we’ll just sit around, eat barbecue, and reflect on all the good times we had,” Jones said.
Jones added the day also has a somber side. Military men and women who gave their lives in battle, and veterans who passed away after returning home are remembered.
“About dusk we start thinking about some of the somber times, and some of the guys, ‘wish so-and-so was here,’” Jones said. “Usually it’s just time of reflecting on the good that happened with us, at least my crowd — that’s what we do.”
Jones said he suffered from PTSD upon returning home from the Vietnam War. He wrestled with the question, “could he have done things differently and saved the life of a comrade-in-arms?” He reached the resolve that he could not.
Jones said time with fellow veterans is healing.
The day’s remembrance ceremony was held in the partially finished VANC conference room.
The VANC Resource Center opened in 2007 in the former Oceanside police station building.
VANC has held an annual Memorial Day ceremony to a packed house every year, regardless of ongoing major interior renovations.
A recent $1.1 million donation allowed walls, plumbing and electricity to be added to most of the building. Fiber optics for meeting room presentations will be put in next by veterans in the VANC fiber optics training program.
The conference room, where the ceremony was held, still lacks electricity. In order to accommodate the event, overhead lights and a public address system were powered by extension cords running from the finished part of the building.
VANC serves over 5,000 veterans. The nonprofit provides referral to 37 partner veterans’ assistance organizations, and holds career transition workshops and job training for veterans.