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.'"
One day, six races and more than 2,700 participants. Padres Pedal the Cause is a hope-giving, cancer-research-funding event that’s taken place at San Diego’s Petco Park (100 Park Blvd.) every year since 2013. In the last six years, Padres Pedal has raised more than $10 million, with 100% being donated to local research centers like Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla, and children’s hospitals like Rady’s in Serra Mesa, all in an effort to end cancer once and for all.
In total, the event funds 53 local cancer research projects, five of which are clinical trials.
“We’ve had more and more participants join in each year and this year’s event will definitely be one of our biggest,” said Anne Marbarger, executive director of Padres Pedal. “To know that we’re an organization that’s providing hope for these families by funding research that’s actually going towards making sure kids in the future don’t get cancer or at least have better treatment options, that’s super meaningful.”
Padres Pedal hosts races this Saturday, Nov. 16, ranging from 5K running events to 25, 55, 88 and even 100-mile bike rides over the Coronado Bay Bridge and through Coronado’s Silver Strand State Beach. And local doctors, in addition to cancer in-patient families, are also breaking out their bikes to join the cause.
“I have seen cancer take the lives of many individuals over my professional career, including my dad and one of my best friends,” said Paul Dougherty, a La Jolla-based dentist at his own clinic, Dougherty Dental. “So, it was a no-brainer to get involved.”
Dougherty has been an avid bike rider for the last 20 years, beginning with his first mission-focused raced with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training national cycling event in 1999. Dougherty says he got “hooked” on the mission and began focusing his attention on local efforts to fight fatal diseases. When Bill Koman, a cyclist and two-time lymphoma survivor, brought his Pedal the Cause event from St. Louis to San Diego in 2013, Dougherty jumped at the chance to join.
“It has always been a positive experience for me to ride side by side with a team of people all working towards a common goal to fight this disease,” said Dougherty, who rides with Team Beaumont in Padres Pedal’s 100-mile race, The Century. “The money raised at Padres Pedal is really making a difference in the trenches battling cancer, and I’m seeing positive outcomes more today than ever before.”
One of those positive outcomes is Padres Pedal’s focus on empowering kids who want to get outside the hospital and be active, either by participating in the kids bike race “Super Hero Kids Challenge,” or by one of these “SuperKids” being sponsored by a Padres Pedal team. One of the children in the SuperKids program is 4-year-old Savannah Schwartz, a Rady’s brain cancer patient and daughter of Jonathan Schwartz, cycling team captain of the WD-40 bike team in Padres Pedal.
“Padres Pedal has been a big support system for us by changing our perspective about life and about people,” said Schwartz, whose daughter was diagnosed at the age of 2. “You never fully understand what resilience is until you see a child go through something like this. The pain they endure through treatment is astronomical, but my daughter has always done it with a smile and that smile has given us a lot of strength.”
“My team last year supported a 5-year-old boy named Ryker who was being treated at Rady’s,” added Dougherty, who just last spring diagnosed one of his patients with oral cancer. “Seeing him fight the battles of trying to beat his disease was very impactful for each of us as a team and significant in why we need funds to find a cure.”
To register for Padres Pedal the Cause events, visit mygopedal.org. Check-in begins at 4:30 a.m. and events last from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. when the park closes. Lunch and bar services are provided and there’s a finish-line festival with live music at the end of the races.