Veterans: Respect others' sacrifices

November 09, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — His voice choked by emotion, retired Army Lt. Col. Carl Vindiola told the students of Calexico High School, "Respect the sacrifices that veterans have made for your country" — he paused — "because it's hard … to leave your family … to go off to fight. … I know it's hard."

Vindiola, a Vietnam veteran, addressed students at a Veterans Day memorial ceremony at Calexico High on Thursday morning.

Before the emotional coda of his address, the Calexico High band played "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Taps."

Vindiola said, "Those two songs represent our country. Keep those songs in your heart because that's the heart of America."

He told the students to "be proud to be American and a Bulldog but even more, be proud to be an American."

After his address, the other veterans on Calexico High's gymnasium stage and the assembled student body applauded.

Calexico Police Chief Tommy Tunson, an Army reserve lieutenant who served in the Gulf War, recognized each of the veterans on the stage and acknowledged those who had won a Silver Star or Bronze Star.


The crowd gave the veterans a standing ovation.

Tunson then led the students in an accompanied rendition of Lee Greenwood's anthem, "God Bless the USA."

During his speech that followed, Tunson read some of the lyrics to the song and explained why they meant so much to him.

In closing, Tunson called on the students, and the entire U.S., to emulate the courage of the Calexico veterans.

"There is a price for freedom and we all should be willing to pay the price," he said.

Calexico Mayor Victor Carrillo told the students the men on stage are the living embodiment of the soldiers they might have seen depicted in movies such as "Saving Private Ryan" or "Pearl Harbor."

The Calexico veterans assembled for Thursday's service served in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.

One of the veterans, Gordon Ferrell, was an Army paratrooper during the Allies' invasion of Normandy in World War II.

Mayor Pro Tem John Renison said, "Lee Greenwood can sing it on and on but this" — he pointed to the veterans — "is where the rubber meets the road."

Councilman Gilbert Grijalva told the students of his father, a World War II veteran.

Grijalva said he was proud of his father and proud to be a first-generation American. He said the students should be proud to live in a country where they can speak two languages, "go to football games, the movies; without being interrogated."

Fire Chief Carlos Escalante told the students to ask the veterans questions and get to know them.

"You have an encyclopedia here. Ask them questions. They'll tell you what happened and how it was," he said.

After the flag was removed by the Calexico Police Explorers color guard and the Calexico High band played a final rendition of "Taps," students filed by and shook the veterans' hands.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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