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VETERANS DAY: Medal of Honor recipient Jon Cavaiani speaks to Redlands vets and others, encouraging them to pass the torch to the nation's children.
By Jaya Jiwatram
Staff Writer REDLANDS
A strong sense of patriotism could be felt from the crowd at Jennie Davis Park during Veterans Day ceremonies Monday morning.
A few hundred people surrounded the eternal flame, shining brightly from a large stone tablet, which acted as a backdrop for the speakers during the event honoring the nation's veterans.
The event, hosted by American Legion posts 650 and 106 in conjunction with the city, attracted a larger crowd than usual this year, said organizers.
"This is the largest crowd I have seen for the Veterans Day ceremony," said City Councilman Gary George, himself a veteran of the Vietnam War.
"The veterans are appreciative of the large crowd," he said.
George said he believed there were two chief reasons for the large turnout.
"As the nation teeters on the brink of war there is a lot of appreciation for veterans," he said.
Another reason , said George, was this year's keynote speaker, retired Army Sgt. Maj. Jon R. Cavaiani, one of 82 surviving recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Rudy Lozano, from American Legion Post 650, introduced Cavaiani to the audience with a brief description of his brave accomplishments. Cavaiani took risks beyond the call of duty, said Lozano. He is recognized for his actions as a platoon leader during the Vietnam War, although he is a Grenada and Middle East war veteran too.
On June 4, 1971, Cavaiani was serving with an elite Special Forces reconnaissance unit behind enemy lines in Vietnam when his platoon came under heavy enemy fire. Over a two-day period, outnumbered and outgunned, he risked his life repeatedly to evacuate his platoon before it was overrun by the enemy force. He was wounded several times, firing at the oncoming enemy force as the last of his platoon excaped to safety, according to his Medal of Honor citation.
Cavaiani was in Vietnam from 1969 to 1973, the last two years as a prisoner of war.
He added that he risked his life, because he was "worrying about (his) people."
"Any commander that doesn't watch out for their people is not a commander," said Cavaiani.
Originally from Ireland and England, Cavaiani came to the United States in 1947. He became a U.S. citizen 21 years later and describes himself as a patriotic American.
Cavaiani's speech mainly revolved around patriotism and the importance of teaching it. He said the younger generation lacks knowledge of their own flag and what their freedom is about. When people started to display American flags after Sept. 11, he questioned if they really knew what the flag meant or whether they held it because it was in vogue.
"Our patriotism tends to rise and fall with the occasion," he said.
Patriotism is something that needs to be passed from one generation to the next, said Cavaiani. However, he emphasizes that the responsibilities lie on others, especially veterans, to teach children what the flag means to them and how they had to fight for their beliefs.
"I can only get up and say so much about the Korean War, Vietnam War and World War II," said Cavaiani. "I have turned the torch over to you."
After Cavaiani came back from Vietnam he wanted to learn more about its history. He taught himself Vietnamese history, he said. Currently, he gives talks at various colleges and high schools on Vietnamese history.
"I don't teach from the North Vietnamese said or the U.S. side," he said. "I teach history."
He added the students can make their own decision on what side they prefer, based on the facts.
Cavaiani also teaches Vietnamese history at Columbia College voluntarily in Columbia, Calif., where he resides. His interests go beyond history as he also teaches the culinary arts there.
George presented Cavaiani proclamations from the city and from outgoing Assemblyman Bill Leonard, during the ceremony.
"This city is your city," said George as he handed Cavaiani the proclamations.
The ceremony not only honored Cavaiani for his service to his country, but also saluted all veterans there, especially veterans of the Korean War marking the war's 50th anniversary.
Around 30 veterans were among the crowd and were asked to come to the front of the stage and introduce themselves. They were given a musical salute among many other salutes.
On the 11th hour two representatives from the Police Department and two from the Fire Department color guard raised the American flag to honor the veterans.
Michael Hicks sang the national anthem and Commander Bill Hardin of American Legion Post 106, recited the pledge of allegiance to follow the flag-raising ceremony.
The Redlands Highs School Band, directed by James Benanti, also performed at the event.
Korean War veteran, Jim Dauber, announced that there is a Korean War Service Medal available to veterans commemorating their 50th anniversary. Korean War veterans can call 1-800-558 1404 or 210-565 2536 to request their medal.
© 2002, by Redlands Daily Facts
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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