A Salute to Veterans in Orange

Times Staff Writer

Under gray skies, veterans were saluted in red, white and blue fashion at Santa Fe Depot Park in Orange on Sunday in honor of their sacrifice and courage then and now -- especially now.

Young Marines who have returned home after active duty in Iraq attended, with Tuesday being Veterans Day. Marine Maj. Mark Miner reminded the mothers, dads, brothers and sisters of servicemen and women that the fighting there is not over.

Miner said members of his unit "came back in September, and most are back with ... their families and living normal lives. But there's already the possibility that we'll be called back."

U.S. officials say there are an average of 29 attacks a day on coalition forces in Iraq, including the downing of a Chinook helicopter Nov. 2 that killed 16 soldiers.

At the Orange event, Al Koenes, 72, who served in the U.S. Air Force in Korea, said such remembrances are important "to the morale of people serving in uniform today."

The park is the site of the train station where thousands of troops were shipped out to combat zones during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Several years ago, the veterans of American Legion Post 132 worked with city officials to erect a memorial fountain and wall to commemorate the station's significance to the military.

"We don't take enough time out to say thanks to our veterans," said Mayor Mark Murphy. That gratitude is "heightened when you know 130,000 active military are putting their lives on the line to protect our freedom."

The event featured a flyover by the March Field Aero Club, with three planes in the "missing man" formation, then again in the traditional V.

The Americana Quartet, an a cappella group, sang patriotic songs at the opening and closing.

Young future Marines from the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program at Orange High School presented the colors.

Edgar Gonzalez, 16, joined the program his freshman year.

"I've wanted to join the Marine Corps since I was small," he said.

"You're still small," said Jose DeRosas, 17, also in the ROTC program. But he added that Gonzalez stands tall in uniform.

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