Colony Market & Deli gives away $1,000 worth of sandwiches to local Veterans

ATASCADERO — Veterans Day festivities kicked off early on Friday, Nov. 10, in Atascadero this year with the return of Colony Market & Deli’s 2nd Annual Veterans Day celebration. That day, the deli gave away close to $1,000 worth of sandwiches to veterans and active military. Not only that, but they also raised a whopping $2,000 for K9s for Warriors, which is a nationwide non-profit that pairs trained shelter dogs with warriors with PTSD.

“We saw so many military personnel — active and veterans — as well as their families,” said Colony Market & Deli owner Joanna Wemple. “It was super upbeat with a lot of families who had gathered to celebrate their own members of the military. Some of the older vets shared stories with us. It kind of felt like an extended family reunion.”

Last year, one of the deli’s employees, Kristina Knewby, came up with the idea as she always tries to do things that help veterans, and the success of last year’s event made it clear that they would bring it back again this year. Like last year, Damon Meeks, who owns A Superior Crane, brought one of his huge cranes into town, and they flew a giant flag next to the shop on El Camino Real. They also held a raffle and a silent auction.


The raffle prizes were from local businesses and individuals, including Wrona’s Quality Auto, The Tire Store, San Luis Auto Glass and Tint, West Coast Detailing, and Colony Cinemas. Al Martinez, a local musician, donated an amp. Even Rollerderby made a donation. 

“Kristina [Knewby] put everything together, including the most delightful cupcakes from Jen Nicholson,” stated Wemple. 

Rick Litz and Brian’s Bread also contributed to the day’s success, as well as plenty of other anonymous donors.

“A huge thank you to the businesses and community for their support. We can’t do any of it without them,” concluded Wemple.

The community then showed up, once again, on Saturday, Nov. 11, for the 16th Annual Veterans Day Ceremony at the Faces of Freedom Memorial. The Atascadero Veterans Memorial Foundation sponsors the event. The ceremony started at exactly 11 a.m. with a flyover by the Estrella Warbirds, followed by the Presentation of Colors presented by the Cal Poly ROTC, accompanied by Central Coast Pipes and Drums. 

Before the invocation, given by Pastor John Marc Weimann from Cornerstone Church, who served as a naval flight officer for 20 years, Opal Lansky sang the national anthem. 

The Armed Forces Melody played with veterans from all military branches being honored by the large crowd who attended the ceremony. Guest Speaker Sgt. Leia Larson of the U.S. Marine Corps was then introduced. Larson was one of two women in the Marine Corps who were Huey (helicopter) Crew Chiefs and door gunners. She was deployed to Iraq after the events of 9/11.

“First of all, I wanted to start off by thanking every single veteran who ever came before me here. To the WWII veterans that we have left, you literally saved the world from evil, so thank you for that gentlemen,” stated Larson at the start of her speech. “To the Korean War veterans that fought through frozen hell and stood their ground against insurmountable numbers. To the Vietnam veterans who survived sweltering jungles and faced guerilla warfare in a horrible environment and then came home to unforgivable ridicule. To the Gulf War veterans, who seem to be largely forgotten. And from those wars to every skirmish and conflict in between that, we have been deployed to all over the world. I want to say thank you so much.” 

Specific veterans from the community were honored with Quilts of Valor made by the local Quilts of Valor Guild and the Gold Coast Quilt Guild. As of Oct. 31, Quilts of Valor has provided over 362,564 quilts to Veterans.

Specialist Dan Pittaway from the U.S. Army introduced this year’s Distinguished Veterans Award to U.S. Navy Radio Man Third Class Navy Kenneth Craig, who will turn 98 in January.

“Ken joined the Navy and served in WWII as a Radio Man from 1944 until his honorable discharge in 1946,” stated Pittaway.

Vicky Morse, an AVMF Aux 2814 member, placed a memorial wreath dedicated to all veterans, before taps was played by Dr. Alexander Castellanos. The ceremony concluded with the Retiring of Colors. 

Photos by Rick Evans / ATN