Military planes painted the sky overhead, the Marine Band San Diego played patriotic tunes, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot presented the colors and a true American hero was honored at the traditional Mount Soledad Veterans Day ceremony Monday, Nov. 11.
Hosted by the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial Association (MSNVM), this year’s ceremony’s special plaque honoree was senior chief petty officer Kenton Stacy and his family. A U.S. Navy volunteer, Kenton chose to be in one of the military’s most dangerous occupational specialties, an explosive ordinance disposal technician. After more than 50 combat missions, Stacy was severely injured when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in 2017 in Syria.
Kenton has received numerous awards for his distinguished valor, including a Purple Heart, two Bronze Star medals and three Navy Achievement medals. In 2010, he was named USO Sailor of the Year.
Veterans Day on Nov. 11 traces its roots back to World War I, which ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the armistice with Germany went into effect ending the war to end all wars. Originally known as Armistice Day, the U.S. federal holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.
Distinct from Memorial Day, a U.S. public holiday in May honoring those who’ve died in military service, Veterans Day honors all who’ve served, living and deceased, in all U.S. armed services.
Stacy’s plaque will join more than 5,200 others enshrined on the walls surrounding the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial at 6905 La Jolla Scenic Drive South. Honorees include U.S. presidents, 12 Medal of Honor recipients, generals and celebrity veterans.
Congress members Scott Peters and Susan Davis presented a proclamation honoring Stacy. Mayor Kevin Faulconer also spoke, noting “the military is in San Diego’s DNA. Today is about coming together as a community to honor these heroes for their lifetime of patriotism and courage serving our nation.”
Of the Mt. Soledad memorial, Faulconer said, “It is a special place for all San Diegans. It’s the only memorial in the United States that honors veterans both living and deceased from the Revolutionary War to the war on terror.”
Of memorial plaques, Faulconer said, “They put a face to the names of our heroes and captures a moment in time for that veteran, reminding us of their great commitment to our country.”
Master of ceremonies Marc Bailey quoted immediate past San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman in noting, “Leadership is a shared responsibility. That’s what you have represented up here on every single one of these plaques, and every one of our veterans who’ve ever served this nation. Each and every one is a leader.”
Sgt. Neil O’Connell, USMC Ret. and president of MSNVM, thanked those assembled for “supporting us in every endeavor.”
“We should especially thank those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said O’Connell, who added Wi-Fi is now available at the memorial, “for eventually having a virtual tour created here to give stories about each and every veteran. We also have created an endowment so that this memorial will remain funded … to teach our youngsters and our citizens about the sacrifices of our veterans preserving their legacy.”
Keynote speaker was Capt. Oscar Rojas, Commodore Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group One.
The ceremony was capped by a performance by the San Diego Salute Formation Team.
Asked what it means to be a vet and the significance of Veterans Day, Brian T. Grana said, "Vets are thanked profusely for our service on Veterans Day. For me, and in reality, I like thanking the citizens who allowed me to serve and wear the cloth of our great nation.
"When thanked, I typically respond with: 'Thank you for paying my salary and being the type of American citizen worth fighting for.' The first part often elicits a chuckle; the second part, a pregnant pause and an 'I will try harder.'"