Santa Clara paid tribute to America’s military men and women on Veterans Day November 11 at a 3 p.m. ceremony in Central Park. It was the 99th anniversary of the Armistice after WWI.
Flags flew and the Cupertino Symphonic Band played patriotic songs at the Veterans Memorial as veterans of too many wars, families, friends and dignitaries gathered to remember and to honor service members. As in many past years, the keynote speaker was 87-year-old Gunnery Sergeant William (Denny) Weisgerber, a Marine Corps veteran and recipient of the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart.
World War II veterans attend in ever-dwindling numbers. Santa Clara resident Marge Connell, 95, served in the Navy Hospital Corps with the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). She is one of the “invisible veterans”—the women who served in the military. Eight percent of all veterans have been women.
Solvang resident Private 1st Class Erling Grumstrup, 97, served in the Marine Corps in 1944 and 1945. He was wounded during the fierce, five-week Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 when the Marines landed and captured the island from the Imperial Japanese Army.
Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Rafael Jimenez, 94, a Santa Clara resident since 1965, served in three wars—WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He has chronicled his life in more than 300 stories.
“Avoid any advocacy of war. We don’t need it,” was the thought Jimenez wanted to share with the Santa Clara community. “‘Peace! Peace on earth!’ I would yell to the four winds.”
A passionate call to action was made by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Stephen J. Gustafson, who said that 20 veterans commit suicide every day.
“We have a new battle here at home. Veterans are crying for help at an alarming rate,” said Gustafson. “Listen for their cries for help, and help them see they are valued.”
The 24/7 Veterans Crisis Line for suicide prevention is 1-800-273-TALK (8255), then Press 1. Support is free and confidential for veterans, their families and friends. For online information and live chats, visit www.veteranscrisisline.net.