Local veterans honored at Faces of Freedom Memorial
–Atascadero’s Faces of Freedom Veterans’ Memorial hosted a Veterans Day Ceremony Wednesday. About 350 people turned out for the annual event at the memorial on Morro Road.
Estrella Warbirds Museum conducted a flyover at 11 a.m. Scott Stelzle, Wayne Rice, and George Marrett performed the Missing Man formation in their small planes.
The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 982 and the Chumash Color Guard posted the colors. Rebecca McKinley opened the ceremony with a remarkable rendition of the National Anthem. Rebecca has performed previously with San Luis Obispo Opera, Central Coast Master Chorale, and Carnegie Hall National Choir.
Former Atascadero Police Chief John Couch was the guest speaker. Before a 31-year career in law enforcement, Couch served In Vietnam as a helicopter door gunner. He spoke to the crowd about his experiences in Vietnam. He also talked about his son’s deployment and how his son’s service in a combat zone affected him as a father.
Mayor Heather Moreno honored two distinguished veterans; former Atascadero Mayor Ray Johnson; and retired Lt. Colonel Al Fonzi, the husband of Atascadero City Council Member Robeta Fonzi. Each honoree spoke briefly about their own military experiences.
SLO County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong and his sons, Derek and Darin, played a trumpet tribute. At the conclusion of the ceremony, they played a three-part rendition of Taps.
Sabrinia Sakaguchi and Davey Robichaux of VFW Auxiliary Post 2814 Atascadero placed a memorial wreath at the base of the Faces of Freedom statue to honor all veterans.
Although there were no bagpipe band or quilts of valor, the speakers gave compelling talks about their experiences and the crowd received it enthusiastically.