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Orange County

Threat of War Lends Gravity to Veterans Day Observances

November 12, 2002|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

As war prospects loom, Orange County residents gathered Monday to honor those who have served their country and those yet to do so.

"Those of us who went to war found our lives altered dramatically," Korean War veteran William Woollett told about 300 people at Santa Fe Depot Park in Orange during his Veterans Day address. "We learned to use our fear as a positive thing. We got in touch with our potential -- our hearts and minds were stretched to the limits."

Woollett, 73, city manager of Aliso Viejo, who lost an eye during the war, said he favors a war with Iraq if that's what U.S. leaders decide.

"We must continue our commitment," he said. "We must be vigilant in sustaining the price we paid then. In order to continue as a nation, we must be strong in fighting against injustice wherever we can. We must always keep our word, as we did those many years ago in Korea."

Santa Fe Depot Park, next to the train station just west of Old Towne Plaza, has special significance for veterans, which is why it's the site of the city's annual observance. For years, local men departed for war at the station.

Other Orange County observances Monday were held in Yorba Linda, where the Camp Pendleton commander, Col. John F. Kelly, spoke at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace, and in Fullerton, which hosted its 15th annual Veterans Day parade.

While the ceremonies honored veterans of all U.S. wars, many emphasized the one in Korea. John Whiteriver, commander of American Legion Post 132, which sponsored the Orange event, said the federal government has declared the year ending July 2003 as a Korean War anniversary observance. The armistice was signed in July 1953.

"It's been called the forgotten war," said Orange City Councilwoman Joanne Coontz in beginning the city's tribute. "Orange County had 55 Korean War casualties, half of them from our city."

Orange Assistant City Manager John Sibley, a Vietnam War veteran with two sons in the military, also attended. "Today is especially significant because we have men and women in harm's way," he said. "These people know what it's like to give their all."

Whiteriver, 70, said he finds special significance in the park's war memorial fountain, with its inscription "Dedicated to Past, Present and Future Veterans."

When the monument was completed two years ago, he said, some questioned the inclusion of the word "future." But in light of recent events, Whiteriver said, it should be understood that "we're the spokespeople for those who have died, and this is our remembrance of them. There will always be future veterans -- 9/11 proved that. It's important for us to understand that freedom is not free."

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