Area veterans, their families and community members gathered inside and around the grounds of the Clovis Veterans Memorial District on Saturday, Nov. 11 for a Veterans Day celebration with two concerts, a pancake breakfast, classic car show, and a special display honoring California’s fallen Iraq and Afghanistan service members, among other activities.
The commemorative day is a reminder for the district’s CEO, a most patriotic veteran himself, Lorenzo Rios, to check himself as well as reflect on and appreciate the service of fellow veterans.
“I use this day to ask myself ‘Am I doing my part?’ To my partners who are no longer with me, am I making them proud? Am I continuing to serve? Am I modeling the behavior that would make them proud? Or have I slipped? Veterans Day is always a check on my performance and this is why I continue to tell people that this is the greatest nation on Earth,” Rios said. “On Veterans Day, I continue to celebrate what America is and it’s also a check on myself. If nothing more, I check myself so I model what I hope to see in others and in the community around me and perhaps in the process, we will get more people to stand up and say this is the greatest country.”
Every year, Rios said, Veterans Day services at CVMD grow larger, attracting not only Clovis veterans and community members, but those from throughout the Central Valley, as Clovis has the largest veterans memorial district in the area, built to serve a population upward of 15,000 veterans in the city’s vicinity.
“We have a community that is so supportive of everything that we do and when we bring an event, they show up and that just shows you how important this is,” Rios said.
This year, with Veterans Day falling on the weekend, CVMD’s services expanded to include a GI Film Festival headed up by Hollywood producer Jake Rademacher, who produced “Brothers At War,” and the tear-jerking 9/11 memorial exhibit—a display of photos of each fallen California comrade who served in the Middle East with pinned notes from loved ones attached—which CVMD requested a year in advance.
“It is one of those exhibits that people aren’t aware of but once they’ve been exposed to it, they walk away with a unique experience saying we’ve got to get other people to come to this so we suspect this year will be the introduction to the community and I think by next year, we’ll have a much larger crowd coming to see that alone,” Rios said of the 9/11 exhibit.
The 9/11 exhibit served as a poignant reminder that our freedom has a cost and every day there are men and women serving in our nation’s military fighting for to keep our rights and help other nations gain their freedom as well. It also redefines what civilians typically think of when they hear the term “veteran”—it’s easy to think of veterans as the older folks who served during Vietnam or WWII, but Rios said when most served they were young men making sacrifices and it’s young men still making sacrifices today. In fact, Rios said Clovis has a fairly large population of 20-something-year-old veterans.
“In our Valley when a lot of folks think of a veteran, they don’t think of the 20-year-old or 21-year-old who has already had multiple combat tours and is now living in our Valley,” Rios said. “The needs of our veterans have become a little more complex and broader. Right now, we can host an event that is really targeting our children, giving young veterans an opportunity to come out and have fun with their families. You wouldn’t think of having an event for the kids but because we have such a young population of veterans that come here, the family is a critical part, and if you just focus on the tier that is much older, you miss out with the larger group of veterans that are here … at our district we tell the whole story. We love to tell the stories of our forefathers, but we also tell the stories of our contemporary warriors.”
Of course, CVMD is committed to serving veterans through to the very end of their lives as well.
Jim DiAngelous, a veteran who served a combined 20 years in the Army and Air Force, and Dennis Davenport, a Marine Corps. veteran, are just two of a group of 30 or so who make up the local Joint Service Honors Command, a volunteer organization that provides final military honors—the presentation of the flag to next of kin, the rifle salute, and the playing of “Taps”—at veteran funeral services. The group meets monthly at CVMD.
For DiAngelous, like Rios, Veteran’s Day is not a holiday, but a day to reflect and remember.
“Veterans Day is a time to reflect for me,” DiAngelous said. “All of my uncles were all WWII veterans so for me it is a remembrance of what they did for our country and their service. To me that is what it is, it’s not a holiday, it’s a day to look back.”