It was standing room only Friday morning inside the Solvang Veterans Memorial Hall as people of all ages gathered to pay tribute to America's military personnel on Veterans Day.

The crowd, which included veterans from all branches of service, Boy Scouts and American Heritage girls in their uniforms, was welcomed by Alvin Salge, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7139, which again sponsored the annual event.

Guest speakers included U.S. Air Force Col. William Woolf, who spoke about veterans' love of their country and their sacrifices in the name of freedom.

Salge noted the ceremony honored all members of all branches of the American military, but this year it especially focused on those who fought in the wars in Afganistan and Iraq.

“These wars have been drawn out for 15 years, longer than any wars in which the U.S. has been involved," Salge said. “Even now, our active-duty veterans are still facing combat against ISIS and the Afghan insurgents.”

Veterans from allied countries who fought alongside U.S. military personnel in those wars were also invited to attend.

During the program, veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the more recent wars in the Middle East were asked to stand and be recognized.

The presentation of the colors included the flags of each branch of the military as well as the POW/MIA flag for prisoners of war and those missing in action.

Also included was an invocation and benediction by Pastor Chris Brown, patriotic music by the Santa Ynez Valley Master Chorale, under the direction of Michael Eglin, and the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School Band, in full uniform and under the direction of Cameron Clarno.

Outside the hall, veterans who lost their lives in service to their country were remembered as the American flag was lowered to half-staff while a lone trumpeter played Taps, bringing tears to the eyes of some of the friends and relatives who stood with hands over hearts.

Following the program, many old friends had a chance to catch up as they were served lunch prepared by Country Garden Catering courtesy of Pam Gnekow, executive director of the Buellton Senior Center.


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