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City of Rohnert Park celebrates Veterans Nov. 11

By: Lanny Lowery
November 9, 2018

Once again, a celebration of veterans will take place Sun., Nov. 11 from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. at the Rohnert Park Community Center, 5401 Snyder Lane. Veterans from all branches of the military will be honored. Mayor Pam Stafford, the Mistress of Ceremonies, will direct the event. Mayor Stafford said, “It’s such an honor to MC the Veterans Day and the Memorial Day celebrations. It’s wonderful to see the people standing and the band playing, honoring the Veterans.” A keynote speaker will set the tone of celebration and honor. The Rohnert Park Community Band and the Vintage Choir will perform military songs. Rancho Cotate’s Color Guard will offer a presentation of colors, and the Girl Scouts will put on a flag retirement ceremony. Jan Lappin, director of the Vintage Choir, and accompanist Judy Chumley, along with thirty-five members of the mixed choir, all seniors, will present the songs that represent each branch of the military service. Veterans who served in each service will be asked to stand when the song of their branch is played. Also, backed by the Rohnert Park Community Band led by Gary Young, the choir will deliver its version of “American Anthem.” Bob Safreno, Air Force veteran, last year’s veteran of the year, and organizer of many celebrations of Veterans Day and Memorial Day, recalls that only three flags in the past twenty-five to thirty years have been stolen. He tells how families have honored loved ones by using the flags given to the families of the deceased veterans for the flag ceremonies. These flags, given by the postal service to the veterans’ families, have often been displayed on tables in the Community Center auditorium. The flags show the service member’s name, rank, and serial number. Safreno wonders who will continue the tradition as the veteran volunteers age. Help is needed to honor the veterans. Possibly scouting organization will step in. Last year Safreno was chosen as Veteran of the Year for Sonoma County. A former Air Force officer who served during the Vietnam War, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and received nineteen air medals for his 240 combat missions in C119 Flying Box Cars and another sixty missions in B-52s in 1970 and 1971. Safreno served his country then and has served veterans since. Andy Durkee, Rohnert Park Military Banner Coordinator, told how the Military Banner Program fit into the Rohnert Park Veterans Day event. Durkee said, “Our banner program started in 2011, and we honor any Armed Forces active duty member with family from Rohnert Park by flying a banner for them while they are on active duty. We have installed 57 banners since we started the program, and the banners are ‘retired’ and presented to the family when the member completes his or her military service.” Durkee reminds us that Rohnert Park is the first city to honor our military in this way. Three Sonoma County cities have followed this model, and Santa Rosa and Petaluma are being encouraged to do the same. This year the following banners were installed: Connor Ehrmantraut, Navy; James McCoy, Army; Lakota Sims, Navy; Julie Guerrero, Coast Guard; and Jaxon Crothers, Army. Durkee has a simple but poignant thought about these honorees: “Thank you to our few special citizens who volunteer to serve and defend our country.” The City of Rohnert Park’s Veterans Day event features generations across the ages that celebrate those who have served. Jan Lappin, the Vintage Choir director, told how thirty-five seniors, all volunteers, contribute. Seniors like Bob Safreno keep the flag ceremony alive with their work and vigilance. Gary Young and his community band provide the music. Rancho Cotate’s Color Guard, teenagers, presents the colors while members of the Girl Scouts retire the flag. All this with a veteran for a keynote speaker and a female mayor reflect the diversity of the city as they all participate in a Rohnert Park tradition, an honoring of veterans.