H-SANTA MARIA

Nov 11, 2011 9:34 PM by Ariel Wesler

Thousands honor veterans in Santa Maria

Veterans in Santa Maria were honored with an annual barbecue and a Run to Remember. Both events encouraged the public to never forget those who served and those who gave their lives while defending the freedoms we enjoy every day.

From celebrations to reflections, Santa Maria paid its respects to everyone who served to protect our country.

"As we honor our 23 million living veterans from the greatest generation to the latest generation, let us never forget this debt that is owed," said Army Veteran Frank Campo.

Attorney Michael Clayton hosted his 11th annual barbecue at the Veteran's Memorial with donations benefiting non-profits. Clayton says he first got the idea after watching the movie "Saving Private Ryan."

"I said what are we doing for our vets. We're not doing anything. I don't care what the neighbors are doing. What are we doing because we have this freedom too," Clayton said.

The event brings together veterans from every era and branch of the military.

"You run into people in line and you meet new people and you just have a brotherhood there," said Martin Lopez, a Vietnam vet from Lompoc.

"I watched the Arizona go down," said Larry Viegas, a World War II veteran.

After the horrors many have witnessed, the simple things are what matter most.

"I'm here. That's about it. That's the main thing," said Elias Rodriguez, a World War II veteran.

At Santa Maria High school, stormy weather couldn't put a damper on the run to remember. Monica Diaz organized the event. She lost her son, Corporal Joseph Heredia, nearly seven years ago in Iraq.

"It'll take you maybe 20 minutes to come out and do one mile. Honor one simple person, Diaz said.

Organizers handed out bio pics to put a face on the cost of war. Each one has the name, picture, and story of a soldier killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

There about 6300 of them.

"Rain, snow, sleet. . .doesn't matter. We should be out here! Diaz said.

If you'd like to participate, the Run to Remember began at 5 a.m. this morning and lasts until midnight.

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