Mickey Ganitich rose slowly from his chair as Supervisor Nate Miley called him to the podium. As Miley handed him a framed commendation, the 92-year-old World War II veteran stopped suddenly, and turned to the crowd before him. With his face bathed in the morning light, he raised his right hand to his temple, palm down, and softly said, “Thank you all, young people.”
Seventy years after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, in which he lost 23 friends, on Tuesday Ganitich stood as one of twenty people honored by Alameda County for their service to the military community. “It’s important to acknowledge our veterans, both active and retired, as well as their families,” said Supervisor Nate Miley in his introductory remarks. “We can never do enough of these events.”
As each veteran rose to be honored, their shadows cast long dark streaks across the plaza. Flags whipped in the air from the occasional breeze. Following the commendation ceremony, a 5th grade class from Castro Valley Elementary School gathered together to sing “You’re A Grand Old Flag” to the crowd. Afterwards, the children stopped to shake hands of the veterans, their eyes fixed upon the shimmering medals and colored insignia on the dress uniforms before them.
Doug Lyvere, a 66-year-old Vietnam War veteran, received his commendation for his work with the Berkeley Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans organization.”We’re dedicated to making the lives of veterans better,” he said, smiling. “Veteran’s Day is always about healing.”
From a distance, Dianne Layfield solemnly watched the ceremony with her boyfriend Doug Lyvere, a Vietnam War veteran. Behind them stood a poster of their son Travis, who lost his life in Iraq three weeks after his first deployment. The attack killed nine Marines and one naval corpsman. Travis was 19 years old.
Layfield, another individual acknowledged in Tuesday’s ceremony, is a “Gold Star Mother,” an organization of parents who have lost a son or daughter in military conflict. Founded during World War 1, American Gold Star Mothers grew from the tradition of families hanging a gold star in the window to honor the memories of children killed in action. “I’m a walking tribute to Travis,” she said. “If heaven was close enough, I’d visit him every day.”
To find more about the veterans groups involved click on the links below: