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Ventura County

Tributes Tinged With Anxiety

The subject of war with Iraq is not far from the minds of those who attend Veterans Day programs in Ventura County.

November 12, 2002|Massie Ritsch and Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writers

As a generation of young Americans await orders to fight abroad, Ventura County honored veterans of the nation's previous wars on Monday.

In Simi Valley, more than 4,000 people packed a city park to listen to an Air Force band and dedicate a $1.5-million plaza honoring those who have served in the U.S. military.

Other Veterans Day programs took place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library near Simi Valley and Oxnard's Plaza Park.

In Ventura, at a cemetery trimmed with American flags, the commander of the U.S. Navy's local base assured more than 300 veterans and their families that the nation's military is the world's best fighting force, even as it adjusts to threats from terrorists who wear no uniforms, answer to no nation and do not hesitate to kill civilians.

"We are still vulnerable despite our superiority and power," Capt. Paul Grossgold said at Ivy Lawn Memorial Park. "This enemy is very difficult to find."

Although speakers did not mention the possibility of a war in Iraq, it was on the minds of many veterans and others who have lost relatives and friends in combat.

Like many Americans, Carol Ellinger supports a war but only if it can be won without many American casualties.

"I wish if we had a war, it could just be all machines ... where no men or women would die," Ellinger said. She and her husband, Frank, were both in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. He was killed in Vietnam in 1968.

While Ellinger attended the service Monday in Ventura, her son and grandson visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

"The pain never goes away," Ellinger said. For anyone who has lost a loved one in war, "it will always be in their hearts."

On the Iraq question, retired Lt. Col. Kenneth Todd, a 93-year-old Army vet from Santa Barbara, said he defers to the commander-in-chief, President Bush.

"We've got to do what we've got to do. And if it's to go to war against Iraq, why, we've got to do it," Todd said.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Americans must defend themselves within their own borders, Todd said.

"We've got to be vigilant -- in fact, that's the price of liberty," he said.

Veterans Day was first called Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918.

An estimated 65,000 to 70,000 veterans live in Ventura County. The new Simi Valley memorial in Rancho Tapo Community Park honors veterans with granite plaques inscribed with the names of nearly 800 deceased, retired and active servicemen and women.

"This is a really beautiful tribute," said former Simi Valley resident Denise Reimonenq, who came from Pasadena for the dedication. The name of her late husband, an Army private, is in granite.

"We're really proud to be part of it," Reimonenq said.

Funded largely by the family of a Vietnam-era nurse, Army Col. Patricia T. Murphy, Veterans Plaza also features a reflecting pool, a bronze statue of an eagle and a pavilion displaying flags from the five branches of the military -- Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Murphy's family gave $1 million to Simi Valley and the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District from a trust established in her honor.

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