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Past, Future Both Weigh Heavily on Veterans Day

Many ceremonies honor military men and women. In Simi Valley, 4,000 people attend the dedication of a plaza.

November 12, 2002|Kenneth Reich | Times Staff Writer

Veterans Day this year was not only an observance of the past, the keynote speaker at ceremonies in the Hollywood Hills said Monday, but a day to recognize that war again may lie ahead.

Paying tribute to the 48 million men and women who he said have served in uniform since the founding of the nation -- and the more than 1 million who died -- retired Marine Lt. Gen. John E. Rhodes expressed confidence "that in the current war we will root out evil, and we will prevail."

Rhodes, a Vietnam veteran and twice winner of the Silver Star for valor in combat, told a crowd of about 1,000 at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park that the U.S. "has the best fighting forces in the world."

The ceremony was one of many in the Southland. In Simi Valley, more than 4,000 people packed a city park to listen to an Air Force band and to dedicate a $1.5-million plaza honoring American military service.

In Orange County, several hundred people gathered at Santa Fe Depot in Orange near a memorial honoring the generations of veterans who left by train for two world wars and the Korean War.

"Those of us who went found our lives altered dramatically," said William Woolett, 73, now city manager of Aliso Viejo, who lost an eye in Korea.

"The war provided young men and women an opportunity to mature, to refocus their beliefs on the things that were important," Woolett said.

Gov. Gray Davis, speaking at Forest Lawn, said current and former members of the U.S. armed forces are responsible for the fact that more people are "living on this planet today in freedom than ever before."

Davis, a Vietnam veteran, said the state has spent $20 million trying to help 6,000 Vietnam veterans in California who have been homeless.

"We all understand the profound debt we owe to our veterans," Davis said. "Many have come home to heroes' parades, but the veterans of Korea and Vietnam were not so fortunate."

As times passes, Davis said, appreciation for them grows. A bronze tablet honoring those veterans was unveiled at the ceremony.

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