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THE PRICE OF FREEDOM CEREMONY IN CEMETERY HONORS U. S. MILITARY VETERANS.

Byline: Jim Skeen Staff Writer

PALMDALE - Veterans were remembered Monday in a service that included reminders of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the possibility of a new war with Iraq.

More than 100 people turned out at Desert Lawn Memorial Park for a Veterans Day ceremony organized by the Antelope Valley Service Organization Association.

The 45-minute ceremony included renditions of the national anthem and ``God Bless America'' by the Palmdale High School Choral Group, a rifle salute by the Antelope Valley High School Cadet Corp Honor Guard and ``My Buddy'' sung by Evie Mooer of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary.

There also was a two-bell ceremony, a Navy tradition to honor fallen shipmates, and Palmdale High School buglers Gene Geralde and Marcia Castro played taps.

One speaker, Ray Hernandez, past exalted ruler of Palmdale Elks Lodge 2027, praised veterans of past wars and active troops stationed in Afghanistan.

``We are in the midst of a war on terrorism, and we're close to another war in a far-off land,'' Hernandez said. ``We are proud. We are able. We will persevere. We will sacrifice.''

The possibility of a war with Iraq also was mentioned by Mel Bigelow, commander of American Legion Post 771. Using a clause often spoken by veterans - ``freedom is never free'' - Bigelow urged support for the president's handling of the Iraq situation.

``We have a courageous president, and he deserves our support,'' Bigelow said.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks also were on the minds of speakers, including Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford, who noted that firefighters and law enforcement officers participated in the ceremonies honoring veterans.

``Veterans Day has a new meaning after 9-11,'' Ledford said. ``It's good to see the inclusion of our law enforcement and firefighters.''

Ledford, whose father was in the Marine Corps, said Antelope Valley citizens need to stay focused on a couple of veterans issues: the effort to establish a veterans home in Lancaster and the need to help homeless veterans.

``You can never say enough for our armed services,'' Ledford said. ``Veterans, I say thank you.''

Fire Battalion Chief Don DeYoung also touched on the war on terrorism.

``Every day in every town across this nation, fire(fighters) and police are trying to maintain your homeland security,'' DeYoung said.

One speaker, John Springer, commander of VFW Post 3552, drew cheers when he urged opposition to a bill by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, to move Veterans Day to the same day as the presidential election.

Jackson-Lee put the legislation forward in an attempt to spur greater turnout for presidential elections, but veterans groups see it as an affront to the holiday. The holiday's date, veterans note, reflects the armistice that ended World War I, a signing that took place on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month.

``Keep Veterans Day as it is,'' Springer said to cheers.

Pearl Harbor veteran Bill Brady urged the listeners to talk about their own war experiences to high school students.

``Get out and talk to the students,'' Brady said. ``There are a lot of good kids in those schools, and they want to talk to veterans.''

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Veterans salute as Palmdale High buglers play taps Monday during Veterans Day ceremonies conducted at Desert Lawn Memorial Park.

(2 -- color) Highland High students in junior reserve officer training raise the flag to half-staff Monday in ceremonies at Palmdale.

(3 -- color) Pearl Harbor survivor Bill Brady urges veterans to talk to teenagers about war service.

Gene Blevins/Special to the Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 12, 2002
Words:593
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