Singing Their Praise

The Gilroy Veterans of Foreign Wars Color Guard retire the

Gilroy offers a salute to veterans and those currently serving
during ceremony at Memorial Building
Gilroy – Scores of residents young and old gathered Friday morning to honor the heroes who have helped defend America.

“We pray for all of those who have experienced difficulties, tragedies and suffering that the rest of us have been preserved from,” said the Rev. Dan Derry, of St. Mary Parish, during the opening invocation at the Veterans Memorial Building on the corner of Sixth and Eigleberry streets.

Speaking of those still serving, Derry said “may they be the conscience of our country, expressing concern for peace and justice throughout the world.”

Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage, speaking before the encircled crowd, recounted the history of Veterans Day. The national holiday started out as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I. The signing of the 1918 armistice took place on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. Since then, the day has evolved into a way to honor all those who have donned uniforms to serve their country.

“Unfortunately, for many people, Veterans Day is just another day off work. But not for you,” Gage said to the crowd. “We’re here to honor … those we’ve lost and those who continue to protect us.”

He pointed out that more than 25 million veterans are still alive.

One of them is George Goris, 84, a Gilroy resident who served as a Marine during World War II and in the Korean War. Goris, who did not fight in any battles during his service, called himself “one of the lucky ones.”

Speaking before the crowd, Councilman Russ Valiquette reflected on his experience as a member of the National Guard – traditionally the butt of jokes among the military.

“What’s the difference between the National Guard and the Boy Scouts?” Valiquette asked, repeating one joke he often heard. “And the answer is – if the National Guard get lost, the Boy Scouts can find them.”

The laughs, rare on such a day, served as a prelude to the somber reminder that more than 50,000 Guard members who have been called on to serve in Iraq. Of the 2,000-plus U.S. military deaths in Iraq, Valiquette said, 350 have been guardsmen.

The morning ceremony included music by the Gilroy High School band, which played a stirring rendition of Loch Lomon, a swelling melody punctuated by the martial sound of drumbeats. The ceremony drew to a close with a lone bugle playing.

“I sit there and hear Taps and see faces of the guys who died,” said Councilman Bob Dillon, who served in Vietnam in 1968. “It’s tough. I think if you’re a veteran and you get home safe, every one of us has survivor’s guilt – ‘Why him and not me?’

“I got to come home, get married and have children and grandchildren,” he said, hiding his eyes behind sunglasses as he started to cry.

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