In Clovis, the veteran community continues to be a pillar upholding the values of the city and nation they willingly protected.
And for one Buchanan graduate and current San Diego State Aztec, giving back to them any way possible was something she always wanted to do.
“I just wanted to work with them in some way,” Cari Acosta said. “I’m so grateful for all service members and veterans, it was something that just felt right.”
Acosta, a track and field athlete did in fact get her chance, but it wasn’t exactly what she had in mind – at first.
Janice Stevens, who is in charge of the Monday morning veterans class, was interested in bringing Acosta to the Monday group. Acosta then reached out after a recommendation from her older sister.
Acosta wanted to help anyway she could, but she didn’t realize Stevens already knew exactly what she had to offer.
“I reached out to Janice and I was originally hoping to just do whatever she needed me to do, but because she was at my sister’s wedding, she knew that I sang,” Acosta said. “She told me I should definitely sing Monday mornings and that the veterans group would love that.”
Acosta came to the Monday-morning meetings and became a fixture within the group throughout the summer.
“The veterans adore her. When she begins to strum her guitar and sing, you could hear a pin drop. They were captivated by her singing and her presence,” Stevens said. “After the sessions ended, many would come up to talk to her and request their favorite songs or share their military experiences with her.”
Vern Schmidt, a veteran and frequent member of the Monday morning veterans meetings lauded Acosta for doing something not many people would do.
“She just has an inner love for the veterans,” he said. “What she does is admirable, not many people would come and sing in front of a bunch of guys like us, but she cares. She’s a nice lady with a beautiful singing voice, she is welcome back anytime.”
Acosta has known the meaning and power of service throughout her life. Both of her parents are former law enforcement officers and many of her family friends are too.
However, it’s her faith that continues to push her on.
Acosta has sung in many different churches over the years (sometimes with her older sister), including leading worship since she was 12. Today, she leads at churches here in Clovis and also at her church in San Diego.
“My faith is the most important thing to me in my life. When people know me, I want them to remember me as a Christian and that as the forefront of my identity,” Acosta said. “It’s definitely the most important thing to me and leading worship is something very special to me and something I will do for the rest of my life. I rely on God for everything in my life and it gives me a purpose.”
Whether it’s on stage singing John Denver’s Annie’s Song or the Christian hymn Amazing Grace, Acosta gave the veterans group “a memory we will always treasure” Stevens said.
“We are eager for her to come back to visit.”
Monday, Aug. 12 was her last day as she prepares for another year at San Diego State. Acosta is like many college students, but then again she isn’t.
Being a student athlete brings more challenges than the typical student. Not only does Acosta have to worry about her classwork in the criminal justice field with a minor in communications – an area she feels close to with her families’ background – Acosta wants to focus on her singing career as well.
Add that on top of her track and field career and you have a very occupied individual.
“Being a student athlete in college means I’m pretty busy,” Acosta said.
She graduated in 2017 with a scholarship to SDSU, but Acosta was skeptical on her coach’s choice to have her throw discuss along with shot-put, instead of being a runner.
At first, Acosta specialized in the 400 meter and the 200-meter races, but as time went on at Buchanan, she began to develop different skills within the sport.
“The throwing coach came up to me and said I looked like I could be a good discus thrower,” Acosta said. “To me it didn’t make sense because I’m still very skinny and at the time I had no muscle on me and I thought this guy was insane.”
Acosta just stuck to the plan and started throwing. Not long after she realized that maybe she was in the right event after all.
She excelled during her time at Buchanan, earning an athletic scholarship, but now, Acosta has gone away from the shot-put and focuses on discus and hammer throws primarily.
The latter being her favorite.
“Maybe it’s something new, but I feel like I naturally move with it very well. I picked it up very quickly and it’s just a fun event to throw, Acosta said. “People think you get dizzy from doing it, but I don’t get dizzy from doing it, so I guess that’s a good advantage.”
Acosta is heading back to San Diego for the school year, but looks forward to the next time she can sing for the men and women from the veterans group.
“Oh yeah, I’m certainly going to sing for them again.”