Veterans Day celebrations throughout North County • Atascadero News


Services were held at the Freedom of the Faces Veterans Memorial and Paso Robles District Cemetery on Friday

By Christianna Marks and Camille De Vaul

NORTH COUNTY – Across the county, residents took the time to attend one of North County’s Veterans Day events in remembrance of the cost of war and the peaceful purpose of Armistice Day .

It was on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – 104 years ago – the First World War ended with the signing of an armistice between the Allies and Germany. Twenty years later, on May 13, 1938, November 11 was proclaimed Armistice Day and proclaimed “a day dedicated to the cause of world peace”.


Veterans and community members gathered at the Faces of Freedom Veterans Memorial on Friday, November 11 to participate in the 15th Annual Veterans Day Ceremony, sponsored by the Atascadero Veterans Memorial Foundation.

The ceremony began at 11 a.m. sharp with a flyover by the Estrella Warbirds, followed by the presentation of the colors, presented by the Cal Poly ROTC Central Coast Pipes and Drums group. Opal Lansky sang the national anthem.

Pastor Steve Shively of Refuge Church delivered the invocation before the Armed Forces shuffle played. Guest speaker, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rod Dykhouse, addressed the audience on what it’s like to welcome soldiers back after they’ve gone to war and shared stories from his time in Vietnam.

Twenty-five veterans received Quilts of Valor made by the local Gold Coast Quilt Guild at the ceremony to thank them for their service.

Army Specialist 4 (SPC4) John Couch received the Distinguished Veteran Award from Marine Corporal Tim Haley.

“Who is John Couch? John is a U.S. Army veteran who served from 1970 to 1973. He served as Specialist 4 in Vietnam as a helicopter door gunner from 1971 to 1972, Haley said. “He retired after a 31-year career in law enforcement, serving his final four years as chief of police in Atascadero. He is a graduate of California State University Sacramento and the FBI National Academy. He has served on various boards of local organizations, including the Atascadero Veterans Memorial, and is currently President of the Estrella Warbird Museum. He is one of three generations of his family who served in the military.

The memorial wreath was presented in honor of all veterans by U.S. Air Force veteran and member of VFW 2814 Michael Lasley and his wife, VFW Aux. Heather Lasley, member of 2814. The tap dance was made by Dr. Alexander Castellanos. A complimentary BBQ lunch, prepared by the Atascadero Kiwanis BBQ team, was available to all Veterans following the ceremony.

Photos by Rick Evans / Featured Photo: Army Specialist 4 (SPC4) John Couch (middle) and his family stand near the Faces of Freedom Veterans Memorial with his Distinguished Veteran Award.

In Paso Robles, the Paso Robles District Cemetery hosted its Veterans Day Ceremony again after switching to a drive-in event to comply with COVID regulations for the past two years. Each year, the cemetery creates the avenue of flags all over the grounds to pay tribute to our veterans. Additionally, the flags are accompanied by a ceremony conducted at 11 a.m. sharp, featuring notable speakers, bands, and a fly-over of the Warbirds Museum.

Master of Ceremonies Salvador Cota welcomed the audience to the service, which included an invocation by Dave Bender, Leo Castillo with the welcome speech and retired Marine Kenny Enney as keynote speaker.

The Paso Robles District Cemetery houses 1,200 VA-issued headstones. But that number rises to more than 2,000 when you count privately issued veterans’ headstones. Some veterans of the Spanish–American War are buried in the pioneer section of the cemetery.

Volunteers from the VFW, Boy Scouts, Moose Lions Club and others help put flags on every veteran’s grave in the cemetery. At the Veterans Day Ceremony, Boy Scouts led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Paso Robles Joint Unified School District (PRJUSD) administrator and retired Marine Kenny Enney gave the audience a brief history of the creation of Armistice Day and its transition to Veterans Day.

“The World War II Veterans Service has eased the burden of service for Vietnam veterans,” Enney said. “Vietnam veterans have made service easier for veterans of the Desert Storm and the War on Terror. And I hope my service will ease the burden on the next generation.

The United States Army Security Agency (USASA) Camp Robert Honor Guard was present to perform their memorial duties. After the ceremony, lunch was provided by Eddington Funeral Services and hot chocolate, coffee and biscuits were provided by the cemetery board.


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