By Marina Andalon

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Honor to the solider and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.”

This year the Virginia Avenue Park Parent Connection Group hosted their second annual Veterans Appreciation Event. The group was established in 2014 and is comprised of families whose children participate at Virginia Avenue Park. Through empowerment and collaboration they continue to bring African-American heritage events and awareness to the Pico neighborhood.

Gina Frasier, serves on the Virginia Avenue Park Advisory Board and put the event together. She has lived in Santa Monica for many years, and has always had a passion for giving back to the veterans.

“I have been surrounded by vets my whole life, and I have lost half of my family. This is simply a way of giving back, it is the least I can do,” said Frasier. My hope is to have this event grow and reach many more veterans who are struggling on the streets especially in the Pico neighborhood.”

Pastor Herman Kemp showed his support by speaking to the audience, and showing his appreciation to all Veterans. He introduced the Santa Monica Police explorers, who held the American flag while everyone stood to say the pledge of allegiance.

The Santa Monica youth orchestra sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, and was combined with children ranging from kindergarten to third grade. Many proud parents and family members were present to capture the moment.

Frasier said, “It is wonderful and such a blessing to have the Santa Monica Police Department team up with us and show their support.”

Captain Muir of SMPD, took the stage and referenced Billy Ray Cyrus hit song, Some gave all. “Billy Ray Cyrus had a song, and in that song he said ‘all gave some some gave all’ and that is for the veterans and for the people who serve our country. We thank you.”

He acknowledged every veteran at the event and said thank you to each, as well as the families that attended. “On behalf of the Police Officer Union we have provided food for everyone as a thank you,” said Captain Muir.

The veterans were not only honored at the event but also received a swag bag from the Santa Monica Police Department and had the opportunity to talk to the children and share their stories.

Albert R. Cole, a veteran who was born and raised in the Pico neighborhood attended the event. “I was part of the 589 Signal Battalion and was stationed in Germany,” Cole said. “I am very honored to be here, to be a veteran and to serve this country. If I had to do it again, I would.”

Many people had the opportunity to share their stories among each other and some took the stage to say thank you and how important veterans are to them.

The Parent Connection Group stands strong by their motto, “Our community’s diversity is our strength.”

marina@smdp.com

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