UNVEILING: Lucerne Valley Veterans Monument Committee member Peggy Roork, left, and chairwoman Patti Riddle, right, unveil the monument. Peter Day / The Leader
Just over two years ago, Lucerne Valley lost one of its own.
Sgt. Brian L. Walker, 25, “a happy-go-lucky guy” who was known for his humor while growing up in this small desert town, was killed on Mother’s Day of 2012 when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
Choked with emotion, Lucerne Valley Veterans Monument Committee chair Patti Riddle on Monday told more than 350 attendees of the monument dedication that remembering the service of her personal friend and others like him kept her motivated.
Remembering the price paid by Americans, both those killed during war and those who come home, is an imperative, speakers said at the event at Pioneer Park.
“We forget,” said Rep. Paul Cook, a retired Marine Corps colonel. “And that’s a reflection on our society. And that’s very, very dangerous. We have to remember our returning veterans.”
Cook commended the monument committee for its perseverance and attaining its vision. “A little town like Lucerne Valley has more patriotism than 99 percent of large cities,” he said.
Cook also briefly addressed the recent Veterans Administration hospital scandal in which a number of veterans were not provided adequate medical treatment.
“There’s no excuse for this,” he said.
Third District Supervisor James Ramos also urged attendees to remember our veterans.
“Let’s remember our veterans 365 days a year,” Ramos said. “It should be more than just one day a year. We need to remember everyone who made our nation a safe place to live. We need to let them know that what they did wasn’t for nothing.”
First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood asked five Lucerne Valley veterans in attendance to stand and be recognized for their service. The veterans were Corky Hernandez, who served during World War II; Chris Huber, who performed submarine service in Vietnam; Vietnam veteran Lee Rasmussen, who earned a Silver Star and six battle stars; Jason Waters, a Vietnam veteran who received a Purple Heart and other honors; and Mike Brown, who flew 64 combat missions throughout his career.
Dawn Sikes, a representative for Assemblyman Tim Donnelly spoke on the behalf of Donnelly, who is currently campaigning for governor.
The monument committee began its journey 16 months ago, raising thousands of dollars by holding bake sales, a pancake breakfast and publishing a veterans honorarium book.
Ed McBride, son of committee secretary Sharon Fritz, served as event emcee. Trumpeter Brandon Dzajkich performed “Taps.” Several Lucerne Valley residents who helped with the monument fund-raising drive, participated by reading patriotic prose.
The Lucerne Valley Veterans Monument reads: “Lest We Forget. Dedicated to the men, women and canine heroes who honorably serve in the Armed Forces of the United States, past, present and future during war and peace. Their devotion to duty, since the birth of this nation, shall never be forgotten. Dedicated May 26, 2014.”
Boy Scout Troop 257 of Apple Valley presented the colors and raised the flag, and Girl Scout Troop 926 of Lucerne Valley handed out song books.
VFW Post 5551 of Lucerne Valley, American Legion Post 879 and the American Legion auxiliary of Lucerne Valley also participated in the ceremonies Monday.
Local women with the Daughters of the American Revolution and Daughters of the Union Veterans of the Civil War displayed banners while making their presentation during the ceremony.
For many, the highlight was the presentation of five local veterans who served during World War II. Those acknowledged for their dedication and service were Art Bristol, Charles C. Anderson, Col. Ray Clark (ret.), Russell Christison and Mr. Decker.
Several other Lucerne Valley residents participated in the reading of poems and leading in the singing of patriotic songs.
Later in the afternoon, a smaller contingent gathered at Lucerne Valley Memorial Park to dedicate a second monument. The large, white rock was donated by OMYA California, which mines calcium carbonate.
Capt. Tom Pinard (ret.), who helped spearhead the Wrightwood Veterans Monument drive more than six years ago, said that the committee’s accomplishments are truly impactful.
“You’ve done something with the community that is really heart-rending,” said Pinard, who was a vital resource for the Lucerne Valley committee.