Oakmont Recognizes Heroes Among Us on Veterans Day

Oakmont’s commemoration of Veterans Day brought together first responders, service members from all branches of the military and civic leaders Nov. 12 for an inspiring appreciation event at the Berger Center that recognized many different kinds of heroes.

“Quite simply, Oakmont would not be here if it were it not for the unrelenting, exceptional work of the dedicated first responders who came to our aid a little over a year ago,” said OVA Board President Steve Spanier. Acknowledging the uncontained fires up and down the state, he noted this is the “new normal” and we need to be better prepared next time.

Kenwood Fire Chief Daren Bellach speaking to the audience at the Veterans and First Responders event Nov. 13. (Photo by Michael Reinhardt)

His words were echoed by Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin who also urged residents to remove junipers like those that caught fire and destroyed her Oakmont home.

“Here in Sonoma County, we fought a different kind of war in October 2017,” Gorin said. “There were no soldiers, but instead first responders working to save the lives of our neighbors.”

Navy Capt. Bob Cortelyou, a veteran and Planning Committee chair, reminded the some 250 attendees that the first Oakmont event to recognize veterans took place in 2005 at the urging of a veteran, the late Army Capt. Mel Ruiz.

Five Veterans Day grand marshals in attendance were recognized: Coast Guard Capt. Pete Folkens, Army Capt. Jerry Foster, a physician; Army Maj. Del Tiedeman, a DC-3 pilot in World War II; Lt Col. Margaret “Lee” Marabito, who was an Army Air Force nurse in Vietnam; and Adm. Mac McHenry, who served in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War.

“When military get up and put on that uniform, they are putting their life on the line. Their families don’t know if they will return,” said US. Rep. Mike Thompson who also lauded “second responders” who provide counseling, food and other community services.

Also speaking were Kenwood Fire Chief Daren Bellach, City Councilman Jack Tibbetts and Pat Kerrigan of KRSO Radio. She thanked the honorees for going to work in their chosen occupations. “A year ago many of us became veterans of a different kind of war,” Kerrigan said. “We learned about what resiliency meant. You taught us about strength and recovery. Thank you for the consistent inspiration you are to us every single day.”

Also recognized were Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano, Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner, City Council member Julie Combs, Robin Dieter of the American Red Cross, John Skeel of Sonoma Animal Control and Publisher Alec Peters of the Kenwood Press.

The event emceed by Captain Jim Knapp ended with a brief overview of World War I and the signing of the Armistice 100 years ago. Event sponsors included Oakmont Gardens who served lunch; Oakmont Kiwanis, McBride Realty, Century 21 and OVA staff.