Local observance honors veterans of all America’s wars

Marine Corps veteran Sgt. Toran Gaal and his wife, Lisa Graves-Gaal. Saturday the first ever Wreaths Across America ceremony was held at VC Cemetery, where wreaths were laid at 183 identified graves of veterans of America’s wars from the Civil War onward.

Matt Foster, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) chapter of Escondido and Valley Center and chairman of North County Veterans Stand Down, was the MC.

Foster recognized “Sharon Healey Bartholomew, the location coordinator for Wreaths Across America at Valley Center Cemetery and also the regent of Center of the Valley Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution,” who is credited as the driving force behind the DAR’s efforts to identify VC’s veterans in the cemetery, and to raise donations to cover the costs of the wreaths.

He also recognized Rincon Band Chairman Bo Mazzetti of the Rincon Band; Vice Chairwoman Tismall Turner and Rincon councilmember Laurie Gonzalez.

Foster pointed out the POW/MIA table and invited guests to look at it. “Everything on it means something,” he said.

Then followed a moment of silence to remember the fallen, the prisoners of war, the missing in action and to honor those who have served and are serving America’s armed services.

Boy Scout Troop 619 posted the colors, while India Parks and Sophia Rizzotto, both of the VCHS Advanced Choir sang the National Anthem.

Pastor Gunnar Hanson, of Grace Point Church, and a retired Navy Seal, led the invocation.

Foster observed, “Right now, across the country at more than 1,100 memorial sites like this, we are gathered as one nation to Remember, Honor and Teach. We are all proud to be Americans that live in a free society made up of many people, from many walks of life. The freedoms we enjoy today have not come without a price.

“Lying here before us and in cemeteries throughout this nation are men and women who gave their lives so that we can live in freedom and without fear. We can worship as we see fit. We can raise our children to believe as we do. We can travel from one end of this great nation to the other and not have to ask permission. We are free to vote for whomever we feel should be in government office, with no explanation needed. We have the right to succeed and we have the right to fail at whatever endeavor we wish to pursue.” Matt Foster, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1513 of Escondido and Valley Center, with the veterans who placed wreaths for the five services and MIAs and POWs. They include (from left) Mike Frank, Mark Hamm, Toran Gaal, James Botts and Weaver Simonsen. Bo Mazzetti, who placed the wreath for the U.S. Navy, is not shown. He added, “The United States of America was founded on the ideals of Freedom, Justice and Equality. Our Nation stands as a shining beacon of liberty and freedom to the world. We thank those who gave their lives to keep us free and we shall not forget you. We shall […]