Solana Beach salutes those who serve

Solana Beach salutes those who serve
Navy veterans John Leipper, left, and former Del Mar Mayor Richard Earnest salute as “Anchors Aweigh” is played by the Santa Fe Christian High School band. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
SOLANA BEACH — Solana Beach paid tribute to the United States military on Veterans Day not only during its annual ceremony, but also by breaking ground after the Nov. 11 event at La Colonia Park on a courtyard that will honor service members past, present and future.

Councilwoman Lesa Heebner began the program by saying it is a privilege to be part of a tradition that recognizes those who have served our country “from the greatest generation to the latest generation.”

“Your service and your sacrifices will never be forgotten and never be taken for granted,” she said.

County Supervisor Dave Roberts, the guest speaker, addressed many aspects of military life during his speech.

His oldest son recently completed basic training as a member of the U.S. Air Force. Roberts said sending a child off to serve the country elicited emotions he’s never experienced.

Roberts also highlighted Robert O’Neill, a highly decorated veteran who deployed more than a dozen times, held leadership roles in more than 400 combat missions and recently identified himself as the Navy SEAL who fired the initial shot that killed Osama bin Laden.

Roberts said despite his impressive service record, O’Neill is not entitled to full military benefits because he retired after 16 years and not the required 20.

“We need to make sure we provide benefits to all those who serve this nation,” Roberts said.

He received applause when he said the condition once known as shell shock or battle fatigue needs to be correctly identified as post-traumatic stress injury “because it’s not a disorder or a disease.”

As fewer people choose to enter the military, Roberts said we need “to make sure we put our veterans front and center.”

All speakers also thanked the families of those who serve for their sacrifices and support, especially those who care for disabled and wounded warriors.

The annual event, co-hosted by the city and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5431, was attended by VFW members representing all branches of the military, several former Solana Beach mayors, the Camp Pendleton Young Marines and area residents.

The Santa Fe Christian High School band performed patriotic songs and white doves were released “to carry the souls of our veterans to Heaven,” Randy Treadway, VFW Post 5431 commander, said.

Following the conclusion of the ceremony, City Council members gathered for a ceremonial groundbreaking on a long-planned courtyard.

The $200,000 project is funded by city and county grants and private donations. Personalized 1-foot square tiles that will be installed in the courtyard will honor service members and are still available for $300 each.

Former Mayor Teré Renteria, who has spearheaded the project, said she started the day needing a little more than $8,000 to fully fund the project. She said she took in more than $1,000 in donations and tile sales before and after the ceremony.

Visit vetshonor.org for more information on the courtyard and tile sales.

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