40 Vets honored at Wesley Palms retirement community in La Jolla/Pacific Beach

Wesley Palms resident Blaine Cameron excitedly receives a pin and certificate.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The Wesley Palms retirement community at 2404 Loring St. saluted 40 veterans from all branches of the military Nov. 9, ahead of the Veterans Day weekend. The residence’s veterans were acknowledged with a certificate bearing their name and branch of military service, and a gratitude pin, bestowed upon them by another service-member.

U.S. Retired Naval Lt. Commander Gary Rossi opened the event with inspirational words before the vets in the audience had the chance to share their stories. Some spoke from the podium, others from their seats.

U.S. retired Naval Lt. Commander Gary Rossi Ashley Mackin-Solomon

Rossi opened: “In the Navy, we have an analogy for the connection between generations of sailors, and I know in attendance here, there is representation from the Army, Coast Guard, Air Force …

“And Merchant Marines!” a resident shouted from the audience, to laughter and applause.

“Yes,” Rossi continued, “But bear with me for this story from the Navy’s perspective.”

He went on to say that in the Navy, “the connection is that of an anchor chain. The chain’s strength comes from the connection of its links. This chain is created with the connections of generations of our service members over our country’s history.

“Your link — and legacy — in that chain set the standard for those of us who followed. We are honored to stand, ready to assume the watch that you stood with honor, courage, committeemen, duty, loyalty, integrity and excellence. It is because of you and your services that our armed forces have become so great.

“My fellow veterans, please accept our heartfelt thanks and gratitude. When you see and wear this pin, know that your faithful and dedicated service to our nation is deeply appreciated.”

Jerry Kibbey with Pauline and Dan Chang following the ceremony Ashley Mackin-Solomon

Resident Bob Crabb shared how he pre-enlisted and was sworn-in to the Navy by the time he graduated high school in June 1945. “I waited, and sure enough, they called me to active duty on Aug. 1. Well, if you remember, on Sept. 1, 1945, Japan surrendered. I’ve always known it wasn’t just the atomic bombs, it was the fact that they heard that I was now in the active Navy!” he said.

George Wong added that he was drafted out of college and served on the frontlines in the Korean War. “I can’t think of anything (regarding my service) except losing friends,” he said. “But the good thing was that the war ceased on my 21st birthday, so I consider that a great birthday present.”

Referring to 2018 as “The Year of the Woman,” resident Gena Fishley said she had to speak up. “13 months ago, I was honored to be selected as one of the five service women who served from 1941 to 1945 who were not previously given any (recognition) honors by the government. Now, they have a new government building next to Arlington National Cemetery, dedicated to women who served.”

From there, the veteran’s names were read one by one, with Rossi and active duty service member Adrian Aguilar distributing the certificates and pinning small American flags on the lapels of the residents.

Get the La Jolla Light weekly in your inbox