Services were held at the Faces Freedom Veterans Memorial and Paso Robles District Cemetery on Friday
By Christianna Marks and Camille DeVaul
NORTH COUNTY — Across the county, residents took time to attend one of the North County Veterans Day events in remembrance of the cost of war and the peaceful purpose of Armistice Day.
It was on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — 104 years ago — World War I ended with an armistice signing between the Allies and Germany. Twenty years later, on May 13, 1938, that Nov. 11 was anointed as Armistice Day and proclaimed as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.”
Veterans and community members alike headed out to the Faces of Freedom Veterans Memorial on Friday, Nov. 11, to participate in the 15th Annual Veterans Day Ceremony, sponsored by the Atascadero Veterans Memorial Foundation.
The ceremony started promptly at 11 a.m. with a flyover by the Estrella Warbirds, followed by the Presentation of Colors, presented by the Cal Poly ROTC band Central Coast Pipes and Drums. Opal Lansky sang the national anthem.
Pastor Steve Shively from Refuge Church gave the invocation before the Armed Forces Medley played. Guest speaker U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rod Dykhouse addressed the audience on what it is like to welcome back soldiers after they’ve gone to war and shared stories from his time in Vietnam.
Twenty-five veterans were presented with Quilts of Valor made by the local Gold Coast Quilt Guild during the ceremony to thank them for their service.
Army Specialist 4 (SPC4) John Couch was presented with the Distinguished Veteran Award by Marine Corporal Tim Haley.
“Who’s John Couch? John is a U.S. Army veteran who served from 1970 to 1973. He served as a Specialist 4 in Vietnam as a helicopter door gunner from ’71 to ’72,” Haley said. “He retired from a 31-year career in law enforcement, serving his last four years as the Chief of Police in Atascadero. He’s a graduate of California State University Sacramento and the FBI National Academy. He has served on various boards of directors of local organizations, including The Atascadero Veterans Memorial, and serves currently as the president of the Estrella Warbird Museum. He’s one of three generations in his family that have served in the military.”
The Memorial Wreath was presented in honor of all veterans by U.S. Air Force veteran and VFW 2814 member Michael Lasley and his wife, VFW Aux. 2814 member Heather Lasley. Taps was performed by Dr. Alexander Castellanos. A free barbecue lunch, made by the Atascadero Kiwanis BBQ Crew, was available for all veterans after the ceremony.
Photos by Rick Evans / Featured Photo: Army Specialist 4 (SPC4) John Couch (middle) and family stand by the Faces of Freedom Veterans Memorial with his Distinguished Veteran Award.
In Paso Robles, the Paso Robles District Cemetery welcomed back its Veterans Day Ceremony after transitioning to a drive-thru event to comply with COVID regulations for the past two years. Each year, the cemetery creates the Avenue of Flags throughout the grounds to pay tribute to our veterans. Additionally, the flags are accompanied by a ceremony conducted at 11 a.m. sharp, with notable speakers, bands, and a flyover by the Warbirds Museum.
Master of Ceremonies Salvador Cota welcomed the public to the service, which included an invocation by Dave Bender, Leo Castillo with the welcome address, and retired Marine Kenny Enney as the keynote speaker.
The Paso Robles District Cemetery is home to 1,200 VA (Veteran Affairs) issued headstones. But that number is increased to over 2,000 when counting privately issued veteran headstones. Some veterans from the Spanish American War are buried in the Pioneer section of the cemetery.
Volunteers from the VFW, Boy Scouts, Moose Lions Club, and others help put flags on every veterans grave in the cemetery. During the Veterans Day ceremony, Scouts led the attending crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Paso Robles Joint Unified School District (PRJUSD) trustee and retired Marine Kenny Enney gave the public a brief history of the creation of Armistice Day and its transition to Veterans Day.
“The service of the World War II veterans eased the burden of the service for the Vietnam veterans,” said Enney. “The Vietnam veterans eased the service for the Desert Storm and war on terrorism veterans. And I hope that my service will ease the burden on the next generation.”
The United States Army Security Agency (USASA) Camp Robert Honor Guard was present to fulfill their memorial duties. Following the ceremony, a lunch was provided by Eddington Funeral Services and hot chocolate, coffee, and cookies were provided by the Cemetery Board.