Veterans Day marked with ceremony at Lancaster Cemetery

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Antelope Valley Blue Star Mothers prepare to place wreathes at their respective service flag poles at the Lancaster Cemetery Veterans Day ceremony, Nov. 11, 2019. The wreaths represent each branch of the military. (Photograph by Adrienne King)

Lancaster Cemetery has for generations been the Antelope Valley’s spiritual center for programs and gatherings remembering the fallen and those that serve in our nation’s armed forces.

On Veterans Day 2019 the tradition carried on, as an absolutely beautiful fall morning greeted those who made the journey to pay their respects and gain a bit of patriotism from the community and its leaders, along with those who called our nation’s military home at some point in their lives.

At 9 a.m. sharp, Lancaster Cemetery Manager Dayle DeBry called the event to order and welcomed the community. The posting of the Colors was courtesy of Army Sgt. Becker from the Lancaster Armed Forces Recruiting Station, and under his charge were three Navy ROTC cadets from nearby Antelope Valley High School. After the posting and Pledge of Allegiance, local Blue Star Mother Sylvia Gaxiola gave a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem that carried well in the cold, still air in the Veterans Court of Honor. The local Blue Star Mothers placed the traditional service wreaths at the base of the service flags and Chris Chandler of the Valley’s Marine Corps League also placed the wreath of the Marine Corps. Dave Owens and the cemetery board of directors also placed a wreath in front of the World War II monument.

From right: Bob Alvis, Dayle DeBry, Manager of Antelope Valley Cemetery District, Richard Cooke, Trustee of Antelope Valley Cemetery District, Dave Owens, Chairman of Antelope Valley Cemetery District, Bishop Henry Hearns, and Lancaster City Council Members Ken Mann, Raj Malhi and Angela Underwood-Jacobs stand as Sylvia Gaxiola sings the National Anthem during the Lancaster Cemetery Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11. (Photograph by Adrienne King )

After the introductions of local civic leaders and presentations of certificates of appreciation, Chris Parke — a “go-to” guy when it comes to playing the bagpipes — gave a brief history of the pipers during the first and second World Wars, before he performed a medley of classic bagpipe standards.

The keynote speaker for the day was Antelope Valley Vietnam Army veteran Gerry Rice, who shared memories of his service and his journeys to Vietnam as a dog handler in a combat regiment. Rice, who also works with returning military soldiers, shared a bit of the challenges of today’s returning soldiers and the care and support that our nation needs to have available, to make sure our very best get our very best.

Overall, the event was reminiscent of all the great programs that always find their way into the Veterans Court at Lancaster Cemetery. The highlight of these programs is always those who attend and spend time afterwards sharing and connecting with old friends, military comrades and patriots.

We all left with full hearts, thinking that it won’t be long until we once again gather at Lancaster Cemetery for the Wreaths Across America program and another chance to gather as a community and honor the very best of our nation!
 

Sgt. Becker from the U.S Army recruiting center along with cadets Joe Jimenez, Sofia Fuentes and Faustino Morales of the Antelope Valley High School Navy JROTC post the Colors and the military service flags during the Lancaster Cemetery Veterans Day ceremony on November 11. (Photograph by Adrienne King)

 
Gerry Rice, U.S. Army veteran, was the guest speaker during the Lancaster Cemetery Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11. Rice served with the Army’s 4th Infantry, 101st Airborne division between 1968 and 1974. While serving in Vietnam, Rice worked as a Scout Dog Handler and was stationed north of Saigon. While he has been retired from the military for 50 years, he continues to serve his country through the Veterans Administrations Community Care program where he helps veterans with post-traumatic stress. After a meeting with the founding members of the AV Wall he began to realize that he needed to embrace his veteran status and stop running from it. He is now living his best life as he has continued to give back. (Photograph by Adrienne King)

 
Chris Parke plays Taps on the Bagpies during the the Lancaster Cemetery Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11. (Photograph by Adrienne King )

 
Flags were placed on the graves of the veterans who are interred at the Lancaster Cemetery in remembrance of Veterans Day. (Photograph by Adrienne King )

 
Dayle DeBry, manager of the Antelope Vally Cemetery District welcomes those who gathered during the Lancaster Cemetery Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11. (Photograph by Adrienne King )

 
Bob Alvis leads those in attendance in the pledge of allegiance at the Lancaster Cemetery Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11. (Photograph by Adrienne King )