Hillcrest’s World War II Vets Honored

August 21, 2011
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Friends of the 4th of July's Tim Morisson presents a U.S. flag to Margaret Peter Petersen, Navy, Yeoman, 2nd Class.

Friends of the 4th of July's Tim Morisson presents a U.S. flag to Margaret Peter Petersen, Navy, Yeoman, 2nd Class.

According to Department of Veteran Affairs estimates, out of the more than 16 million men and women who served in World War II, only about 1.7 million remain, with an estimated 850 more veterans dying every day.

world-war-ii-veterans-of-hillcrest-honored-aug-20-2011-0-02-49-40On Friday, La Verne chose to honor 47 of those men and women who live in the town’s Hillcrest Retirement Community. But even then, the effort, representing some three months of planning, by Hillcrest, the Friends of the 4th, the La Verne Chamber of Commerce, the La Verne VFW Post and the City of La Verne, could not stop time. Before they could be honored, Jack Horner and Harold Stone, both Navy men, had passed, winnowing the honorees to 45. Each hero was honored with a moment of silence.

But for the 45 remaining members who were feted, it would indeed be a day they would long remember.

The afternoon salute began with a parade of motorcycles, led by Tim Morrison, Jeff Bassler and other Friends of the 4th of July, firing up their flag-festooned Harleys in downtown La Verne and then roaring across Bonita Avenue before turning north on A Street to the Hillcrest Retirement Center. Many local business members waved tiny flags as the motorcyclists thundered by.

After the colors were presented inside the packed Meeting House, Mary Van De Brake led the audience in a moving rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner,” the words of the anthem taking on even more patriotic and reverential tones because of the aging defenders of America’s freedom who were singing them.

Margaret Petersen

Margaret Petersen

The eeriest dichotomy of the day, however, had to be the black and white photos of the honorees lining both walls of the meeting house. The individual portraits of strength, beauty, and youthful optimism stared out at every observer who stopped to study them, chilling reminders of sacrifices made a long time ago.

While the men and women in the photos strangely contrasted with the elderly figures being honored, a glimmer of their youth and fighting spirit returned each time Mayor Don Kendrick read off each of their names. In gracious and humble acknowledgement, as they were presented with flags, certificates and other mementoes, many stood briskly,others struggled to stand and a frail few stayed in their chairs, but all seemed to be answering the call to duty yet again with a smile, a tip of the cap or a wave of the hand.

One attendee, who asked that her name not be used, stood staring at one of the photos on the wall. It was of her neighbor. “He looks so young,” she said. “I’ve known him only as an older man. I had no idea. This picture fills in all those missing years.”

untitled-0-00-03-21Another highlight, on an afternoon filled with them, Morrison presented Hillcrest with an 8-ft. -by-5-ft. flag, which had flown over the nation’s capital on July 4, 2011, to fly proudly over Hillcrest’s retirement community in honor of its many World War II veterans.

For more coverage, please click on the REEL People video on the LaVerneOnline front page.

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