ANAHEIM, Calif. (Nov. 11, 2023) — Anaheim celebrated the veterans of our city and country on Saturday in a moving ceremony marking Veterans Day.
About 100 veterans and community members gathered at the Anaheim Veterans Memorial Monument in downtown for the annual Anaheim Veterans Day Ceremony.
Bobby McDonald, a Navy and Vietnam veteran and a member of the Veterans Alliance of Orange County, served as emcee.
The Anaheim Fire & Rescue Color Guard did the ceremonial presentation of colors, while the Esperanza High School Choir performed the national anthem and the “Armed Forces Medley” with veterans standing as their branch song was sung.
Mayor Ashleigh Aitken, a veterans advocate, delivered remarks along with keynote speaker Major Alexis Federico, a retired Marine Corps helicopter pilot, lawyer and member of the Orange County Veteran’s Advisory Council.
“We must advocate for our veterans and military families, because they need us to fight for them as hard as they fight for us,” Mayor Aitken said. “I encourage everyone to raise awareness of veterans, their needs and what they have done for us. It is down to all of us to be their advocates for all they have done for us.”
Federico, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and helped an Afghan interpreter settle in Anaheim, talked of the value of veterans in our community.
“Veterans are not only recognized for their tremendous acts of service in uniform but also for what they continue to do for their communities once they leave active duty,” Federico said. “Veterans serve as elected officials, teachers, Little League coaches, Girl Scout troop leaders, police and firefighters and community leaders. Why? Because veterans make great citizens.”
Connecting with other veterans is essential for those who served, said Federico, who was a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter pilot and instructor in the Marines.
“There’s magic that happens when you meet another veteran,” she said. “As soon as you meet another veteran, there is a sense of belonging. You just get each other. It’s good for the soul. Veterans need each other, and they need a purpose.”
There’s a need to connect veterans of different generations, including those who served in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, Aitken said.
“I encourage all of you to reach out to our next generation of veterans and to keep that bond strong,” she said. “That is the legacy of being a veteran. And to our younger veterans, I invite you to reach out to the VFW and American Legion right here in Anaheim. You will find a warm welcome.”
The Anaheim Veterans Day Ceremony in now in its 16th year.
When possible, the event features the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Anaheim’s adopted Camp Pendleton-based unit. With service commitments, the 13th was unable to join this year but was recognized at the event.