By: Lieutenant Colonel Rudy W. Cardona
Senior Aerospace Science Instructor
In only a few days our nation’s flag will flutter on porches across the country honoring our veterans. Small towns with its residents who can trace its military service back for several generations will commence festivities for its local heroes.
People will rush in from the fields and drive in from the city, down through main street where many-a-parade took place honoring a cotton queen or city official. In Corcoran, the hard-working, patriotic, people make the trip “home” each year to honor its veterans. The 10th Annual Salute to Veterans Banquet occurred on October 29, 2016 at the Corcoran Unified School District’s Technology Learning Center where over 300 people attended. People traveled from as far as Fresno, Visalia, and Hanford to recognize the efforts of veterans and their families.
As Veteran’s Day approaches, it is important to be mindful of our hometown heroes. We should celebrate each generation of military service by telling their stories, helping those in need, and by honoring their example.
Each year has been celebrated by a joint program hosted by the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFJROTC) from Corcoran High School and Corcoran’s Veterans Outreach. This year’s event was extra special as it marked the 10 year anniversary of the AFJROTC unit in Corcoran. The event culminated in an entertaining dinner-event at zero cost to all attendees which featured awards to the community, a guest speaker, and military/veterans T-shirt and souvenir sales. In addition, the Kings County Veterans Services Officer was available to speak about veteran’s benefits and services. Over 30 cadets from the AFJROTC program participated in the event coordination and execution while the veterans outreach provided the dinner. Entertainment was also provided by the Corcoran United Choir led by Amanda Tuner and the Corcoran High School Panther Jazz Band led by Chad McCoy.
Among the distinguished guests included Corcoran Unified School District Superintendent, Richard Merlo, Kings County Board of Supervisors District 2 Representative Richard Valle, Damian Douglas representing California State Assemblymember Rudy Salas, Sid Palmerin representing the City of Corcoran, Jeanette Todd from the Corcoran Journal, and Staff Sergeant (US Army retired) Justin Bond representing Our Hero’s Dreams non-profit organization.
The guest speaker of the evening was Jim Anderson, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Quartermaster for California’s District 9. His work with Veterans groups spans decades through his engagement with organizations such as the VFW, American Legion, and Choctaw Code Talkers Association. In addition to his personal reflection on his Vietnam War service and his Native American upbringing, his message was about serving the community, involvement, and mentorship by our veterans.
The banquet recognized several honorees for their support to the community:
–Richard Valle-Veteran of the Year.
–Polly Geisler-Volunteer of the Year.
–Corcoran Journal-Veterans of Foreign Wars Patriotism Award.
–Corcoran Unified School District -Veterans of Foreign Wars Patriotism Award.
–Corcoran High School-AFJROTC 10-Year Recognition Citation.
In his last year at Corcoran High School, the AFJROTC cadet commander, C/Lt Col Isaac Garza, proudly led his unit to present the color guard, Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Ceremony, and serve dinner. He went on to present the AFJROTC 10-year recognition Citation to Corcoran High School on behalf of the cadet squadron. Garza reflected on his past service, “This is my last banquet here, I am very proud” as he saw the crowd enjoying its fellowship.
The Veteran of the Year Award was presented to Kings County Board of Supervisors, District 2 representative, Mr. Richard Valle. Mr. Valle, who served in the US Marine Corps and a graduate of Corcoran High School, said he would continue to serve the veterans and the community proudly and ensure freedoms are not taken away, stating “not on my watch”.
It is imperative that we remember the few that have chosen to sacrifice for something larger than themselves. They are the few that do the most good for the entire world. They are the few that put it all on the line to preserve peace, stabilize civilizations and economies, provide search and rescue, distribute food and medicine, and establish democracies. May we always be humbly grateful.