Veterans and community members flooded the halls of the Veterans Affairs center in Menlo Park on Friday morning to pay their respects to and celebrate the lives of the soldiers who served in the US military.
Music, food, speeches and a moment of silence to honor the lives of those lost at war were all part of the tribute to honor Veterans Day.
The bittersweet sounds of bagpipes and drums filled the gym shared by nearly 100 former members of the US Marines, Air Force, Army, Navy and Coast Guard, as members of the Prince Charles Pipe Band performed for the crowd. After playing a couple songs on his bagpipe, Menlo Park resident Ken Sutherland said it was a privilege to put on a show to the soldiers who fought for the county's rights and freedoms.
"It's the least we can do," he said. "To provide some entertainment for those who have served."
David Morales, founder and artistic director of the Cantare Con Vivo Chorus, shared the same sentiment after his musical group concluded its performance for the crowd.
"We just wanted to say thank you the best way we know how, and that's by singing," he said.
The 80 person Oakland-based choir sang a medley of songs from the musical South Pacific, as well as compositions by Duke Ellington, among other material.
Morales said the occasion was especially meaningful because his choir features 10 veterans who enjoyed the opportunity to perform for their peers.
Marine veteran Aaron Autler, 26, also relished celebrating and recognizing the fellow soldiers who served prior in the military prior to his enlisting.
"This is a chance for me to give service to those who came before me," he said.
He said he spent time at the event helping transport wheelchair bound veterans to the gym from their domicile on the campus, or just sitting down and talking to them and making new friends.
Fellow Marine veteran Stacy Feeser, 57, read in front of the audience a proclamation from President Barack Obama honoring the current and past military members.
The message read by Feeser spoke of the importance for all American citizens to make it a point to thank a veteran for their service to the country.
Perhaps the most powerful moments of the two-hour ceremony came during the speech of 78-year-old , who recounted some of his experiences serving at war in Korea. Bradford took time to thank those who served in each branch of the military, as well as the family members who supported soldiers during their time away from home.
"Freedom is not free," said a former Marine. "It takes everyone to do their part."
Bradford's comments were met with resounding applause by his fellow veterans and their family members, as well as staffers at the center.
The event was wrapped up by the Legends In Their Own Minds band, who played some lighthearted rock and roll tunes for members of the crowd who mingled and enjoyed refreshments with friends and family.
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