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Community honors fallen heroes during Memorial Day ceremony in Atascadero

The ceremony took place at the Faces of Freedom Veterans Memorial. The family of Vietnam War fighter pilot Sherman Smoot laid a wreath to honor his legacy.
Posted at 6:31 PM, May 29, 2023

A Memorial Day ceremony took place at the Faces of Freedom Veterans Memorial in Atascadero.

Attendees turned to the skies for a flyover by the Estrella Warbirds.

The Central Coast Pipes and Drums accompanied Cal Poly ROTC for the presentation of colors.

“There's a lot of guys, just regular guys that went off and didn't come back,” said Navy Veteran Ed Chidlaw.

It was an emotional ceremony, especially for the family of Sherman Smoot, who was a Vietnam War fighter pilot and member of the Estrella Warbirds Museum.

Smoot died in a plane crash last September while testing his aircraft for a race.

“One of the best pilots in the whole world, and this is what he loved: his community,” said Carly Smoot, the daughter of Sherman Smoot. “He loved to bring people together, so I think today just having people come out, he loves bagpipes, I know he was loving that.”

Smoot’s family laid a wreath to honor his legacy.

“I think any way to honor him and just bring people together is like why he would and he would love,” said Carly Smoot.

Veterans stood up when their military anthem played.

“I have profound reverence for the people that lost their loved ones. I, quite frankly, feel very, very blessed that I was able to make it back,” said Jesse Treviño, a Vietnam War Veteran.

This ceremony was a community effort. Boy Scout Troop 51 helped both setup and clean up.

“I like it because we help bring awareness to the veterans, fallen veterans I think that's important,” said Nathan Stephephens-Smith, a boy scout for Troop 51.

The Atascadero High School Choir was in charge of the anthem.

“I feel like a lot of people liked it because we worked hard on it and we were trying our best to support the military community,” said Maiylia Brown, who performed with the Atascadero High School Choir.

Tents were up to remind veterans that there are resources available for them.

“We're out here today to help connect our veterans to VA resources, so we can help our veterans apply for any service, connect a disability claim, get information about education benefits, pension,” explained SLO County Veterans Services Officer Morgan Boyd.

Navy Veteran Cmdr. David Brooks wanted people to walk away with a powerful message: “We gather together with the thought that lest we forget, we will remember our warriors and realize the freedom that is not free,” said Cmdr. Brooks. “There was a cost.”

If you are a veteran and need help connecting with services you can call the SLO County Veterans Services Officer at (805) 781-5766.