Commander Santana keynote speaker at VFW Memorial Day Observance

May 26, 2010
Santa Paula News

In Santa Paula Memorial Day is much more than a three-day weekend; it’s a much-beloved community tradition.

And Mercer-Prieto VFW Post 2043 is again inviting the whole community to share in remembering lost loved ones on Monday, May 31 at Pierce Brothers Santa Paula Cemetery.

The Memorial Day Observance will be held at 10:30 a.m. and feature an address by the Post’s own Commander Tim Santana, a member of the Greatest Generation and an Army veteran of World War II. The cemetery will be decorated with hundreds of American flags for the observance, held at the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Monument.

Participating in the program with the VFW are the Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 56, Channel Islands Chapter American Ex-POWs, Vietnam Veterans Ventura County, DAR Golden West Chapter, Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge 314, Optimist Club of Santa Paula, Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge 2097 and the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs of Santa Paula. The Isbell Middle School Band, with Scott Knef conducting, will offer a musical prelude.

VFW Post Commander Santana will welcome the crowd before the singing of the National Anthem accompanied by the Isbell Band. Pastor Ron Dybvig of the St. Paul’s Episcopal/Emmanuel Lutheran Church will offer the invocation.

Santana, the event’s keynote speaker, was barely 18 when he joined the Army in November 1944, and received extensive training at the Presidio. He was then assigned to the Horse Calvary and Infantry training at Fort Riley, Kansas. From there Santana was sent to Fort Ord for Advanced Combat and Amphibious training.

Ultimately, he served with the 1st Calvary Division in the Philippines. He was assigned to the Luzon Island, where he patrolled the area until General Douglas MacArthur declared combat operations over the first week of July.

In August the atomic bomb was dropped twice on Japan, and within days the country surrendered. A month later Santana was transferred to Japan for Occupation Duty, where his unit’s immediate duties required caring for the many American POWs who had been interned for more than three years in prison camps.

“They were the most happy and joyous soldiers we would ever see because,” said Santana, “they had been liberated.” Almost a year to the day later Santana was discharged; he was only 20 years old.

Following Santana’s presentation, the Placing of the Wreaths will be conducted, followed by the release of Jerry Garcia’s “Heavenly Doves.” Mercer-Prieto VFW Post 2043 and the Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 56 combined Rifle Squad will salute departed comrades, and Rudy Arellano, will play “Taps” to conclude the ceremony.


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