Tehachapi paid tribute to the brave men and women who sacrificed so much to preserve the nation's freedom during the annual Veterans Day celebration held Monday at Philip Marx Central Park.
The celebration was a combined effort of the Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District, the American Legion Post 221, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 221 Sons of the American Legion and American Legion Riders Chapter 221 of Tehachapi.
The Kern County Fire Department honored the veterans by performing a helicopter flyover over Mojave Street at the start of the ceremony.
"I was a firefighter when I was in the Navy, and I know that we have firefighters that are veterans — men and women who are out there in Tehachapi, who are going through some tough times, and those firefighters are in the air keeping things a lot safer for those of us who are on the ground," said Master of Ceremonies and Navy Master Chief Jason Stanley.
Following Bagpiper Jim Carmichael's performance of "Amazing Grace," Stanley told the crowd, "During World War I, the bagpipes were played during the battles to motivate the troops. And, I know I can imagine that, to be out in the field, and have the background noise be the bagpipes playing… Today, it is something that still motivates me even a lifetime after serving."
Stanley went on to thank the crowd for its support due to the large turnout at the event.
"It's very inspirational, on a day like this, to have Tehachapi come together to say thank you to our veterans that make it possible every single day," Stanley said.
Guest speaker was U.S. Marine veteran Sgt. Michael Zavala, who spoke about what it means to be a member of a tribe.
Zavala first enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2007. He participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2009 and served on the USS Essex, providing aid after the tsunami in 2011.
"I was trained to be a Marine, but I wasn't really trained to be a veteran," said Zavala. "You get out, and for the most part, you just want to figure yourself out."
Zavala went on to say that, when he first got out, he didn't really like being told "thank you for your service" because it made him feel separate from everybody else.
"It feels awkward for us because it was something that we wanted to do," Zavala said.
When Zavala was later told that he suffered from PTSD, he said this only further added to that feeling of separation. When his therapist suggested he read a book called "Tribes," by Sebastian Junger, Zavala said, he understood how, in the military, everyone was seen as a giant tribe.
Said Zavala, "These individuals that you are with, they suffer with you through thick and thin… If you are depressed, they are there to back you up, and chances are, they are also depressed."
That sense of tribe, however, dissipates, once you leave the service.
"You have no tribe to turn to," Zavala said. "That's when my wife encouraged me to join scouting."
It was at this time that Zavala said he regained a since of tribe as a Cub Scout leader.
Said Zavala, "A tribe was created with me, with three other families… No one is above anybody else."
While it is great to thank veterans for their service, Zavala said it is just as important to reach out, and make them feel a sense of tribe again.
Other special highlights of this year's celebration were the invocation and benediction given by Father Wes Clare of the California National Guard and St. Jude's in the Mountains Anglican Church in Tehachapi.
This year, there was a kids bootcamp course, ladder run, rock wall climb, military vendors and vehicle expo and The Butcher Shop selling lunch. Canned food was also collected for the Salvation Army.
The veterans were served a free lunch following the event at the Veterans Hall located on F Street, and a free health screening was offered by Adventist Health.
Special thanks were given to Kevin Davey, 1st Vice Commander for the American Legion Post 221 and sergeant-at-arms for the American Legion Riders, and Jason Stanley, Navy master chief, for organizing this year's celebration with the assistance of the Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District. Also, recognition was given to Adventist Health as this year's sponsor.