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GIVING ALL TO ONE'S COUNTRY VETERANS HONORED FOR SERVICE.

Byline: ERIC LEACH Staff Writer

SIMI VALLEY -- Hundreds of people gathered in the Simi and Conejo valleys Friday and Saturday to pay tribute to veterans in ceremonies at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and at local monuments dedicated to people who served in the armed forces.

``These people have given up so much of their lives to serve,'' said Colleen Janssen, spokeswoman for the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District, which helps sponsor one of the community's biggest Veterans Day observances.

Veterans received free admission all day Friday and Saturday to the Reagan Library. Speakers at the event included Rear Adm. Michael Miller of the USS Ronald Reagan and Lisa Zanatta Henn, whose father landed in the first wave at Normandy during World War II.

People from throughout Ventura County also attended ceremonies Saturday at the Rancho Tapo Community Park and Veterans Plaza.

That gathering was hosted by the park district, Veterans of Foreign Wars Simi Valley Post 10049, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 55, the Ventura County Marine Corps Detachment 597 and the Kiwanis Club of Simi Valley.

The plaza includes the names of more than 1,400 people who have served in the nation's military. These names were placed by family members on pilaster monuments located near a three-tiered reflecting pond, with fountains and a grassy amphitheater and flags from the various branches of the military.

The names date from the American Revolution to people who have served during the current conflict in Iraq.

Janssen said it is important to note that the plaza was built to honor everyone who has served in the military, living and dead.

``We wanted to include anybody,'' she said. ``We've had people show up for Veterans Day and discover their names on the monuments. It's a powerful, emotional experience for some people to see that their family has honored them in this way.''

Special recognition was given Saturday to Dick Hlebasko, a Simi Valley veteran of World War II who has given nearly 50 years of service to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and was instrumental in the creation of the plaza.

``Dick Hlebasko is a large part of the reason this plaza was built,'' Janssen said. ``It was so important to him. He was there every step of the way.''

Simi Valley Mayor Paul Miller said the plaza is one of the best tributes to veterans he's ever seen, and he praised Hlebasko for his efforts.

``It's really outstanding for all of our veterans,'' Miller said. ``It provides a beautiful place to come and reflect.''

Hlebasko, 81, proposed the project to the park district in 1982 and said the plaza is the fulfillment of a dream that moves him every time he visits.

``I feel so deeply affected,'' he said. ``It's much better than I had hoped. It's super awesome.''

Also Saturday in Thousand Oaks, local residents gathered at the Veterans Memorial reflecting pool and fountain in Conejo Creek Park for a ceremony sponsored by the Military Order of the World Wars and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

The event included live patriotic music and a flyover by World War II vintage aircraft from the Condor Squadron based in Van Nuys.

eric.leach@dailynews.com

(805) 583-7602

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(1 -- 4 -- color) A member of a Simi Valley veterans group plays taps to conclude the Veterans Day ceremony held at the Rancho Tapo Community Park Veterans Plaza on Saturday. Hundreds of veterans, along with their families and friends, attended the event, which paid special tribute to Dick Hlebasko, below left, who served in the Navy during World War II and who was key in getting the Veterans Plaza built. Below right, 5-year-old Macie Markarian reads the names of veterans on a pilaster.

(5 -- 6 -- color) Simi Valley Mayor Pro Tem Glen Becerra, left, hands a proclamation honoring the oldest surviving veteran to Sebastian Moreno, 96, and his daughter Delores during the Veterans Day ceremony at the Rancho Tapo Community Park Veterans Plaza on Saturday. At far left, Color Guard members wait for the start of the ceremony. The event was hosted by the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District, Veterans of Foreign Wars Simi Valley Post 10049, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 55, the Ventura County Marine Corps Detachment 597 and the Kiwanis Club of Simi Valley.

Joe Binoya/Special to the Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 12, 2006
Words:726
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