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Community Commentary: I lost my dad to war, but still have 'my vets'

November 10, 2011|By Jeanette Chervony
  • Six-year-old Brooklyn Pearce of Mariners Elementary in Newport Beach waves her flag during a school assembly to honor veterans on the last day of school before the Veterans Day holiday.
Six-year-old Brooklyn Pearce of Mariners Elementary… (STEVEN GEORGES,…)

Before the sun rises Friday, a group of volunteers will be preparing to serve breakfast to a special group of military veterans in Costa Mesa.

This breakfast would not be possible without support from the police chief, friends who volunteer and the monetary donations received to defer the personal expense for the cost of the food.

These veterans span four wars, as well as peacetime. You would never know that these men served in the military unless you too were a veteran and somehow the conversation came up. That military connection would most likely evolve into a life-long friendship.

For the past several years, America has really embraced our military and begun to recognize our veterans, mostly starting in the early 1990s with operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Vietnam veterans were not given the same respect.

That era came and went. And then we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.

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Soon after, we sent troops into Afghanistan and then Iraq, and police departments began to allow U.S. flag and military service insignia pins on uniforms. Many veterans were excited to share that part of their personal history with one another and the public.

I was introduced to my first veterans in 1986 when I started working at the Costa Mesa Police Department. I was 19, just a little younger than my father was when he stepped foot in Vietnam in 1967. Sad to say he never stepped out, but was carried out when he was killed in action on May 5, 1968.

I was 13 months old.

The veterans I met at the Police Department were roughly the age my dad would have been. I was so excited to meet them because they were family men, professionals, respected. They weren't homeless, drug addicts or "baby-killers," as the media constantly portrayed them after the Vietnam War.

It was through the efforts of now-retired Costa Mesa Police Det. Danny Hogue that I was able to meet men who served with my dad.

He simply wrote a letter between 1986 and 1987, and it was placed in my dad's military records. In 1989, I received a letter and then the phone call I had been waiting for for many years. Over the course of the next four years I would meet about nine men who served with my dad, knew of my existence and wondered what had happen to that little 1-year-old girl in the photo. It was at that point that I bonded with "my vets."

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