One by one, Stoneridge Creek residents stood and read the words their neighbors had written.

“It is the veteran not the preacher who has given us freedom of religion,” one resident read. “It is the veteran not the reporter who has given us freedom of the press. It is the veteran not the poet who has given us freedom of speech. It is the veteran not the lawyer who has given us the right to fair trial. It is the veteran not the politician who has given us the right to vote.”

On November 11, a Veterans Day celebration at Pleasanton’s Stoneridge Creek senior living community attracted around 250 attendees who came to honor their neighbors who had served, along with the countless unnamed, unknown veterans who have sacrificed to preserve Americans’ earliest dreams of democracy.

“We are honored to have Congressman Eric Swalwell and Assemblywoman Catharine Baker as our guests today,” said host Kate Kelly. “I try to imagine what a veteran feels when he or she is far from home and everything they know and hold dear. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing – washing dishes, dressing wounds or preparing for engagement – their situation isn’t precipitated by their pursuit of personal gain, but by the need and the call to sacrifice for the common good.”

Kelly, who organized the event, had collected residents’ writings about the meaning of Veterans Day, which random readers voiced during the ceremony.

“Veterans Day, Memorial Day and my nephew’s birthday all remind me that he is gone – killed in a fierce battle in Afghanistan,” said Swalwell, reading one resident’s story. “Veterans Day reminds me that there are women and men willing to die for my security. I am grateful, but I am saddened that he only lived for 23 years and that my brother lost his only son. I am thankful for veterans who are here and for those who never returned.”

Baker, reading a resident’s prayer, said, “God, I thank you for our veterans. I thank you for their willingness to risk all so that our nation might dwell in peace and safety. May they find the honor and recognition they deserve.”

It was a beautiful, moving tribute that revealed numerous perspectives of many wars. Kelly, a Stoneridge Creek resident, is also the creator and facilitator of the Stoneridge Creek Served project – a collection of stories told by WWII, Korean, Cold and Vietnam War vets, and career military members.

“We have over 100 profiles in seven binders in our library. We targeted WWII and Korean War vets first due to their age,” Kelly said. “That project expanded to include the presentation of Quilts of Valor to all our vets. We’ve given out about 50 quilts now.”

This year, Quilts of Valor were presented to 16 Stoneridge Creek residents who served during the Korean War.

“Once again, Stoneridge Creek quilters have partnered with the Amador Valley Quilters to produce these works of textile art,” Kelly said. “AVQ, as we affectionately refer to them, is a group of 200 quilters in the Tri-Valley area who have spent countless hours making these quilts – hours that the quilters hope will prove their dedication to honoring veterans’ service.”

The Korean War veteran recipients were: Gene Angvick, Navy, 1951-54; Jerry Bowling, Navy, 1955-57; Dan Clinkenbeard, Army, 1953-55; Jack DaDalto, National Guard, 1948-57; Louis Dambro, Army, 1951-52; Palmer Hadler, Army, 1952-54; Gene Klein, Navy, 1950-63; Bob Middlekauff, Marines, 1952-54; Walt Morgan, Army, 1950-52; Phil Mueller, Navy, 1952-56; Dan Rodrigues, Army, 1951-52; Don Sanservino, Marines, 1955-59; Gordon Teter, Army, 1951-53; Jack Tornio, Air Force, 1950-79; Don Veca, Army, 1951-53; and Bruce Wilson, Coast Guard, 1951-53.

The Korean War, 1950-53, is often called the Forgotten War because unlike WWII and Vietnam, it did not receive much media attention. In the early 20th century, the Korean peninsula had been part of the Japanese Empire, but after Japan’s WWII defeat, Americans and Soviets divided Korea on the 38th parallel – with Russia occupying the north, and the U.S. occupying the south.

On June 25, 1950, the Korean War began when some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel in an invasion that is considered the first military action of the Cold War. In July, American troops entered the war on South Korea’s behalf.

After some early back-and-forth battles, the fighting stalled and casualties mounted with nothing to show for it. American officials worked to fashion some sort of armistice with the North Koreans; the alternative, they feared, would be a wider war with Russia and China – or perhaps even the start of World War III. Finally, in July 1953, the Korean War came to an end with the Korean peninsula remaining divided. Nearly 40,000 Americans died in action in Korea, more than 100,000 were wounded.

“While we can never truly repay the debt we owe our heroes, the least we should do for our brave veterans is to be sure the government takes a proactive approach to delivering the services and benefits they have earned so they can access the care they need and so richly deserve,” one resident read during the ceremony, then added a quote by George Washington, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier years were treated and appreciated by the nation.”

See pictures of the Veterans Day Ceremony at The Independent.