SIMI CEREMONY SALUTES VETERANS.
Some shed tears as they recalled the tragedy and triumph of lives at war.
Others embraced the serenity they said took years to achieve.
All those who attended Veterans Day ceremonies in Rancho Tapo Community Park on Monday rose to pledge allegiance to the one cause they said was worth dying for - freedom.
``It's easy to forget the amount of sacrifice these people made,'' said Simi Valley Police Department Chief Randy Adams, one of several guest speakers. ``Sometimes society forgets that freedom is not free.''
The dozens who attended were forced by rain to huddle under a park pavilion near the Veterans Memorial dedicated in 1991. Although no flags flew from the memorial's seven posts, emotions ran high on a day that also marked the 222nd birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Dick Thompson recalled his father, who served in World War I, and his brothers, one of whom died at Okinawa in World War II.
``You think about the way things were, and the way you wish things could have been,'' he said. ``I hope none of my grandkids have to go to war.''
When Benny LaParne, a World War II veteran, tried to speak about his war memories his eyes filled with tears, his voice constricted. ``Can't talk. Can't get over it. You can't forget,'' he said.
But his pal Ken Riley, who served on the battleship U.S.S. Missouri during World War II and the Korean War, said his mind was at peace.
``I'm here for the vets who didn't come back,'' he said. ``My thoughts are peaceful. Our friends are with us.''
James Mitchell, governor of Moose Lodge No. 1902, referred to the ``good war'' fought in Europe and the Pacific, and the dark chapter that he said was Vietnam.
``Some came home to a hero's welcome; some came home to scorn. I have only respect for the superb service they all have given our country,'' Mitchell said. ``Without you we would no longer be allowed to dream the dream.''
Ron Lester, who served in the Vietnam War, said this year's ceremony had special resonance for him. Only last month he visited the Vietnam War Memorial - ``The Wall'' - in Washington, D.C., for the first time.
``That's what finally brought me to peace with myself. It's hard to explain. It takes a long time to get over it,'' he said. ``I come here every year. It's the least I can do to take a little time in my day to remember and reflect.''
Paul Mole, a Marine who served in Vietnam, recalled what it meant to take part in an unpopular war.
``What comes to mind is the turmoil that was going on. I'm glad we don't have that now. The vets of the Persian Gulf War were welcomed back as heroes,'' he said. ``It makes me proud to have things back the way they should be.''
But if respect for some veterans has been restored, Mole said younger generations are woefully ignorant of the significance of Veterans Day today, a national holiday established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919.
``There's not enough education with the young kids these days. They don't even know what Veterans Day is,'' Mole said. ``I'd like to see the schools let the military guys go into schools and teach some military history.''
Yet Oscar Garcia, a Korean War veteran and Knight of Columbus, suggested in his speech that one of his greatest experiences was returning from war to his children, who had no notion of war.
``That's why I was in the service,'' he said. ``To protect my loved ones.''
VETERANS DAY EVENTS
Moorpark: Veterans in Moorpark will mark the day with the presentation and raising of the American flag beginning at 8 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial on the northwest corner of Los Angeles and Moorpark avenues.
A ceremony will follow beginning at 10 a.m. in the Veterans Grove of Poindexter Park, next to Chaparral Middle School on Poindexter Avenue. The keynote speaker is Councilman John Wozniak.
``Voices of the West: Veterans Day'' will be broadcast from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on radio station KCLU-FM (88.3).
The National Public Radio program will feature profiles of Dorcas Cavett, the first enlisted woman in the Marine Corps; Alvin Josephy, a historian who recorded the first live audio tape of a battle; and Dorothy Solomon, a Vietnam veteran's wife who recalls the experience of learning that her husband's name would be carved on the Vietnam Wall Memorial.
For more information, call (805) 493-3900.
3 Photos, Box
Photo: (1--color) ``That's what finally brought me to peace with myself. It's hard to explain. It takes a long time to get over it. I come here every year. It's the least I can do to take a little time in my day to remember and reflect.
- Ron Lester
(2--color) ``You think about the way things were, and the way you wish things could have been. I hope none of my grandkids have to go to war.
- Dick Thompson
(3--ran in SIMI edition only--color) A Veterans Day ceremony at Rancho Tapo Community Park in Simi Valley on Monday drew soldiers from back to World War I.
Bob Halvorsen/Daily News
Box: VETERANS DAY EVENTS (see text)