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July 8, 2009 > Dedication of Veterans Memorial Park

Dedication of Veterans Memorial Park

By Simon Wong

Veterans, local, county and state dignitaries gathered on July 4 to dedicate the newly-named Veterans Memorial Park at Dyer St and Regents Blvd, next to Union City's Cabello Elementary School.

The memorial consists of eight flagpoles located on the perimeter of a 25 ft radius circle. Flags of the six branches of the services, the California and American flags will fly. Prisoners of War/Missing in Action and American flags will fly together.

Colonel Garrett Yee was Master of Ceremonies. Pastor Diane Robinson delivered the invocation and benediction. Current services personnel and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7906 raised the flags. VFW Post 9601 gave a 21-gun salute. Katelyn West, a Union City Teen Idol 2009 contestant, sang the National Anthem.

Mayor Mike Sweeney, Councilors Kevin Dowling and Anna May and Citizens' Advisory Commissioner Nathaniel Bruno represented the City of Hayward.

"July 4 is a day to remember that America is a nation of immigrants. How clever and sensible we were to welcome risk takers, who left behind cultures, traditions and family, to start afresh to give their children better opportunities for a full life. This is part of this country's wonderful success," said State Treasurer Bill Lockyer.

"We see it today. The Fil-Am, Sikh and Hindu communities... the list goes on. This is an extraordinary thing that gives us hope for the future.

"This is the land of the free and the home of the brave. We're the land of the free because this is the home of the brave. We salute those with us today who have been brave on behalf of our nation and our liberties. Happy Fourth of July," concluded Lockyer.

"Congratulations to the veterans for providing a place where all veterans can come and remember. Time flies, the pace of life is so fast. Many don't pause to remember anything on July 4," said Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele.

"I think about my brothers-in-law, both of whom served in WW2. Frank Steele was awarded the Silver Star; I often think about his mother with two sons away and communications not being what they are today. I've three sons, one of whom served in the air force. Communications and times are different now.

"It's wonderful that we remember, that the veterans created this memorial and I hope we can set aside time to remember how we earned and still strive for our freedoms. It happened because people gave their lives. Many people did a lot of extraordinary things for this country and we never stop to say 'thank you.' This memorial is a 'thank you'," Steele concluded.

Mayor Mark Green honored Mr Winton Turner, a Union City resident of 37 years, for his services and dedication to Alameda County veterans. He has worked with many who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a former US marine with 20 years' service.

Special guest Don Rairdon was present. Born July 21, 1925, in Bellingham, Washington, he served with the US Army 106th Division 424th Infantry Headquarters Command 1st Battalion which was the first unit to fight at the Battle of the Bulge near Snowy Heights on the Belgian/German border.

The German army took him POW on Dec 17, 1944, and sent him to the notoriously inhumane Stalag 3A, Luckenwalde, then to Berlin with 18 other POWs to work near the Teltow Canal. Released by two German guards on April 21, 1945, as the Red Army advanced, he roamed the countryside and reached the Elbe River on May 5, 1945. A Russian guard called to his American counterpart that a POW was crossing.

Rairdon joined other liberated American POWs at Camp Lucky Strike, Le Havre [France], before boarding a Liberty ship that docked at New York Harbor in May 1945. He was awarded the POW medal in Nov 1988.

Phase I of the project took two years to complete and was made possible by the generosity of donors and support from Councilor Manny Fernandez, Union City Public Works, James R Griffin, Dave Blair, Al Pascual, Carlos Segura, Gary Singh and Union City Council.

The memorial will cost $100,000. Further donations are needed for a paved pathway, benches and a granite memorial in the center of the flag circle. The Veterans Memorial Park Committee will continue to fundraise.

For more information, call Richard Valle (510) 750 3519 or contact Washington Township Veterans Memorial Building, 37154 Second St, Fremont (510) 790 2853. Donations are tax deductible under the Disabled American Veterans Chapter #77CA, EIN # 94-2691178.

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