El Estoque

Thank you for your service: the story of our veterans

Aanchal Garg

11/11 at 11:00 a.m. It was a windy Tuesday morning at the Veterans Day Ceremony in Memorial Park where Cupertino community members gathered to commemorate our veterans. As the Navy, Sheriff’s and Fire Department Honor Guard performed the placement of the flag, multiple speakers took the podium to personally show their gratitude for those who served. Closing with songs sung by Cupertino Middle School’s Advanced Choir, all rose for the annual wreath placing of the statue of Cupertino’s fellow veterans who gave their life in Afghanistan.

Below are the stories of several people who attended the event, whether to honor the veterans who protected our country, speak at the ceremony or thank them for their service.

 

Navy chaplain Diana Brady

navy chaplain

Navy Chaplain Diana Brady recited a benediction at the Veterans Day celebration on Nov. 11. According to Brady, a chaplain provides for the religious and spiritual needs of their own faith community. Photo by Aanchal Garg.

“Service to the country and to others is a part of our life in our family. My father was a career navy Chaplain. One of the things that I am most proud of the work he did is when the Berlin Wall came down. The Eastern Bloc countries who did not have free exercise of religion came to our military chaplaincy and asked [for help]. So, he began an international conference with chaplains from west [Europe] and representatives from east [Europe] to begin to help mentor them on how to provide for the spiritual and religious needs of their personnel. That conference still goes on today.”

 

Mayor Rod Sinks

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“The world has come to appreciate more folks who fight in wars and come back with PTSD. That hasn’t been recognized as much as it should’ve been I think historically.

If you think about the problems [the veterans] have, it’s troubling to think that we haven’t adequately provided for their mental health care upon return. Until I was in elementary school, people who were 18 or older were drafted into service. These veterans served their country as bravely as any generation, but when those people came home, they were shut out of the admiration and respect.

People need to respect that when the country, rightly or wrongly, decides to send people into harm’s way, folks that serve in the military go there and do that, and it’s a very brave thing. When they come back with mental illness or with a limb severed, that’s a huge sacrifice. It’s important to understand and appreciate the folks that are elected to do that, because at one time, it wasn’t an election.”

Mayor Rod Sinks attends the Veterans Day celebration to support and honor veterans and the memorial. Sinks gave his thoughts on the people close to him who served at the commemoration. Photo by Aanchal Garg.

 

 

Dog trainer Travis O’Neil 

dog trainer and dog

“His name is Draugur. He‘s two and a Czech line german shepherd in training. We got him when he was a little under a year and a half, and he’s basically been my constant companion ever since then. I’m his trainer and his handler and he’s my buddy.

I was in the United States army, First Battalion 506 Infantry, but was medically retired due to damage in my left leg. I tore my achilles tendon, once in airborne school and then in combat, so they had to rebuild it.

We come every year for the commemoration, and just thought it would be fun to get him out of the house since last night it rained and he had to sit home.”

Dog Trainer Travis O’Neil and his service dog Draugur attend the Veterans Day commemoration every year. O’Neil is a former U.S. Army veteran and is Draugur’s trainer. Photo by Tyler Lin.

 

 

Bagpipe player Christina Shute

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Christina Shute plays the bagpipes at the Veterans Day celebration in Memorial Park on Nov. 11. Shute is a volunteer bagpipe player for the Santa Clara County Sheriff Pipes and Drums. Photo by Aanchal Garg.

“[This] is my tiny bit of contribution to say thanks. I have family members who served in the military. There’s always some pride in knowing family members who have helped to serve our country. On a civilian level, I’m just happy that people appreciate bagpipes and that I can help out.”

 

Retirement center program director Sandi Ryan

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Sandi Ryan enjoys the ceremony from behind. Ryan brings elderly veterans from Rancho San Antonio retirement community to take part in the celebration. Photo by Tyler Lin.

“[My mom, a marine,] was stationed in DC and was at Roosevelt’s funeral, in fact. There’s a picture of the casket of Roosevelt, and right there in the front is my mother in a line of lady officers.

She only stayed in there for two years. But two years is two years. There’s not a lot of ladies who can say that they were in the service at that time. At our senior living facility, we only have a handful of women who were in the service, so it’s kind of an honor.”

 

World War II Veteran Robert Hall

wwii veteran

Robert Hall, a World War II veteran, is honored by the speakers at the Veterans Day celebration for his service. Hall served in the navy from 1944-1946 and in the army from 1953-1958. Photo by Aanchal Garg.

“My proudest moment was when we survived the Battle of Leyte Gulf. We were struck by six shells and it didn’t blow us out of the water like it did to some of [my friends]. I have two of them who spent 44 hours in water without any food or water, and they survived. Their regrets are that they weren’t able to save some of their friends because they got delirious from drinking saltwater, were pushed off the raft and were killed by sharks. The task force that I was in [had] 7,300 men. Of that, only 50 of us were at the reunion for the battle last year.

One of the things I preach today is if you fellows can read English, you thank a veteran. We could’ve been speaking German or Japanese. But we don’t because it’s us who fought in the battles.”

 

Fire Department Honor Guard Members Peter Sokol and Mark Shumate

fire-department-honor-guard

Fire Department Honor Guard members Peter Sokol (left) and Mark Shumate (right) stand with the Sheriff’s Honor Guard to pay respects to the veterans. Both Sokol and Shumate have been attending the celebration at the memorial ever since it started in 2007. Photo by Aanchal Garg.

Mark Shumate: “For me, from the start of the bagpiper, it gets emotional right away. We had a line of duty death, so one of our guys died at a fire in 2005. You hear the bagpiper and immediately get that emotion and-

Peter Sokol: Pride.

M.S.: Pride, yeah. Proud to be here. Proud to pay respects to our deceased veterans and our current veterans.

P.S.: You guys are a different generation than we are. What you have to realize is those guys out there, the World War II, Vietnam and Korean veterans, they were in some deep fighting, bad fighting. These guys here were getting shot at everyday for months at a time. And they made it out. Our war, the war that we’re fighting now, has drones and stuff. You can fly a drone in and nobody gets hurt. You have intel, you have guns that can shoot from far away, you have missiles, but back then, it was hand to hand combat. You were looking at your enemy in the eye and he was looking at you. One of you were going to get killed. What your generation needs to know is what these guys went through. Every time anyone of you young folks see a veteran, you go up and you thank them for your service. They’ll know what you mean.”

 

 

 

 

Co-reported by Tyler Lin and Aanchal Garg