Southern California’s High Desert residents did it again. They came out in large numbers to help support a cause that’s always been close to the hearts of Antelope Valley citizens; they came out to show their support for American veterans.
Friends of the Lancaster Cemetery hosted a fundraiser April 15 at the Lemon Leaf Cafe in Lancaster, Calif., to help raise funds for the forth and final granite panel that will bear the names of Antelope Valley veterans who were killed while serving Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The panel will be placed among the other three panels along the Veterans Court of Honor at the cemetery.
Bob Alvis, a U.S. Air Force veteran and president of the Friends of the Lancaster Cemetery emceed the event and introduced special guests who were there to tell their story and help support the cause.
Flora Belle Reese, a former member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots and a current member of the 99ers, an organization of women pilots, shared some of her experiences while flying military aircraft to where they were needed during World War II. Reese is one of two WASPs that lives in the Antelope Valley and is active in most local veteran functions. She frequently talks to the valley’s school children about the roles American veterans have played in keeping America’s freedoms in tact.
“My son Keith served in the United States Army, he was 36. He served three tours altogether, One in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. He was killed while serving his second tour in Afghanistan,” Rudd said.
Gold Star Mothers are moms who lost a child in a war, and this Gold Star Mother tearfully said she draws strength from knowing that there are many men and women alive today because of her son’s service.
Keith Rudd died in the line of duty Sept. 10, 2011. He has two daughters, Rowan, 8, and Christine who just turned 6.
Palmdale resident, 92-year-old Remo Cuniberti, who is retired from the U.S. Navy, was introduced by Alvis as “The real superman.”
Cuniberti, a Pearl Harbor survivor, was stationed on the USS West Virginia, which was moored at Battleship Row when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. The battleship was hit by two bombs and several torpedoes. Cuniberti witnessed the loss of more than 100 fellow crewmembers during that raid.
All food at the event was donated by Mary Elena Grado, owner of the Lemon Leaf CafÃˆ, and live entertainment was provided by the band Mario, Mike and Dick.
Alvis said the Friends of the Lancaster Cemetery Organization were able to raise $1,700.
The granite panel is in the process of being engraved with the names of 16 Antelope Valley veterans who served and made the ultimate sacrifice during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
The panel will be placed on the Ivan Westerfield Memorial Walkway at the Lancaster Cemetery.
Westerfield was a World War II Navy veteran and the first person killed in that war from the Antelope Valley. His body still rests on the USS Arizona that went down in Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.
The public is invited to attend the dedication ceremony that will take place at the cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 2012.
Those wanting to attend can check with Dayle DeBry at the Lancaster Cemetery for exact time the ceremony will begin. The number to call is (661) 942-6110.
The final panel will complete the monument to Antelope Valley veterans who lost their lives fighting for America.
The Antelope Valley veterans whose names are listed on the final panel are:
Marine Corps SSgt. Allan K. Walker
Army Sgt. Marvin R. Sprayberry III
Marine Corps Pfc. Fernando B. Hannon
Marine Corps Capt. Ian W. Stewart
Marine Corps Cpl. Christopher D. Leon
Army Cpl. Ryan J. Clark
Army Sgt. John E. Allen
Army Spec. Walter Freeman, Jr.
Civilian Micah Shaw
Army Pfc. George Delgado
Arm Maj. Jason E. George
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Javier Olvera
Marine Corps Sgt. Brian J. Pedro
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joseph C. Lopez
Army Spec. Matthew Ramsey
Army SSgt. Keith F. Rudd
Also inscribed on the panel are the words: “Their selfless sacrifice to the Nation will not be forgotten.”