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Community honors local veterans

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MISSION — A frosty day with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees Fahrenheit greeted civilians and veterans alike during a Veterans Day ceremony Sunday morning in Mission.

American Legion Post members and the Mission Valley Honor Guard gathered to pay tribute to fallen heroes around the town’s veterans memorial. Carved into the black stone memorial near the town’s fire station, the names of fallen soldiers from the Mission Valley area served as a potent reminder of the cost of freedom. 

Shivering against the cold, American Legion member Scott McClure said, “They gave a hell of a lot more than just us standing out here in the cold.”

McClure, a Vietnam War veteran, said nearly every veteran in attendance knew someone who had died in combat, and that the memories of war don’t fade with time. 

“It’s a sad day,” McClure said. “It always brings you back to when we were 18 and 19-year-old kids and the world was in our hands ... The memories don’t fade. You’re able to live with them, but on days like this, they’re as fresh as if they happened last week.”

McClure said he’s grateful that so many people stop him to thank him for his service, and that it didn’t used to be that way. He believes modern-day support for the troops has bled over to his generation. 

“Finally, we’re getting recognition for what we did. It feels good,” he said. 

Shortly after, the veterans stood in formation as MVHG Commander J. C. Courville said a few words. 

“We are here today to honor our fallen veterans. It is something we must do, something we’re honored to do,” he said. 

After opening the floor to allow any of those in attendance to speak, Courville read a speech written by a former MVHG commander whose name is now carved into the black stone memorial. 

“Before you is the flag of our nation,” he read. “That flag is the symbol of all that is sacred to us. Look at it closely for a moment. The flag of the United States reflects what we are, and what we hope to be.”

Courville then tearfully thanked those in attendance, saluted the memorial and walked beyond view. 

From behind the memorial, a bugler began playing “Taps” as the honor guard members fired a three-volley salute. 

Mission resident Cody Phillips stood in the background during the ceremony. At its conclusion, he began taking pictures of his grandfather’s name on the memorial. 

“It’s a small part that we can do for the price our veterans paid for our freedom,” he said. 

Event organizer Leo Tellier said he’s been involved with organizing veteran-related activities since 1954. Hailing from a military family, his grandson had served three tours in Iraq and been wounded three times. His nephew served three tours in Vietnam. He was turned away after trying to go back a fourth time. Both of Tellier’s brothers served in the Army. One was killed in a car accident while on on leave from Korea. 

“It’s an honor to be out here,” Tellier said. 

As the crowd began to dissipate and head home, Courville glanced over his shoulder at the memorial and chuckled. 

“Eventually, all our names will be on there,” he said. “But hopefully not for a few more years.”

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