High Desert Veterans Enjoy Banquet

PHOTO: T.A. Graydon - NewsPlus

Stryder Bom and Flint Yegge receive autographs from U.S. Army MP, Viet Nam Veteran Fernando Hernandez while his granddaughter Robin listens to his war stories.

Our beloved Veterans were honored with the 28th Annual High Desert Veterans Dinner, presented by the Tri-Community Kiwanis, Serrano High School, and a host of others, to show gratitude for their years of military service, Wednesday, November 9, 2022. The thank you dinner was held in the Serrano High Gymnasium, where the Diamondbacks slogan, “Commitment to Excellence.” was reaffirmed. Patriotism seemed to warm the chilly November evening.

Todd Anton, an author of several military-themed books, Snowline History Teacher, and founder of the event, plays an active role in putting on this gesture of eternal gratefulness to our service men and women. Along with the Tri-Community Kiwanis Club supporting his idea, The High Desert Veterans Dinner has stood the test of time. “Our first dinner was nearly fifty veterans, and the menu was hot dogs, chips, and potato salad. Now we have served dinners as large as 800 to 900 people.” Todd said about the 28-year-old dining get-together. Bouncing back from pandemic restrictions, this year’s complimentary dinner was highly anticipated.

A near-capacity crowd enjoyed the Diamondback Gymnasium for dinner by the Pizza Factory and Chick-fil-A.

The Serrano High School Jazz Band, led by Music Director Matthew Fell, set the patriotic tone for the evening, entertaining the veterans seated by students from the Heritage School and Serrano High. After a fine rendition of “Taps,” The Pledge of Allegiance, and Grace recited by Pastor Daniel Flores of Calvary Chapel and the Snowline School Board, dinner was promptly served by the students of Heritage School Kiwanis Builders Club. They provide community service and help raise money for Veterans. This year’s meal consisted of Chicken and Pasta with a green salad and baked rolls provided by Pizza Factory in Phelan, a proud sponsor of the event for years. Topping off that tasty supper was a chocolaty, chocolate chip brownie from Chick-fil-A, another loyal sponsor of the High Desert Veterans Annual Dinner. While thanking the Veterans, Todd Anton was sure to include spouses and families who supported them through thick and thin.

Heritage School Honor Guard practice presenting the service flags while the Serrano High School CA Cadet Corps stand ready.

Thanking sponsors like Snowline Joint Unified School District and McDonald’s, Phelan, was a large part of Mr. Anton’s speech as he went down the list, starting with the Tri-Community Kiwanis Club and Victorville Motors, who “have been there all the way” and Calvary Chapel and its staff which, “I couldn’t have done without,” mentioned Todd. While Mr. Anton was busy thanking the veterans and their families, the student servers and staff distributed handwritten thank-you letters and welcome-home cards from the student body at the Heritage School. These were to go to their “Mystery Heroes,” veterans they may never meet or know but would like to thank for their military service. These former warriors shared stories of far-off places and dangerous battle scenes to which they were exposed in combat.

Sergeant Frankie Fiore, 5th Army World War II Veteran plays harmonica to an amazed group of new fans.

Sergeant Frankie Fiore, 89 years young of the Fifth army, ended the evening serenading the remaining veterans and guests with “God Bless America” on his harmonica while his wife of 56 years, Jean, answered questions. As in the poem, “In Flanders fields,” our veterans will always return to us in memories, as the poppies do in the short prose by World War I Field Surgeon Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae of Canada. Todd Anton stated, “This just shows me that when our veterans are the focus, nothing but good happens.” In closing, Todd said, “To all veterans, thank you, and we will see you next year. Bring another veteran, and let’s fill this place up with gratitude and valor.”

Forever in your debt, Thank you, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines.
Special thanks to the Tri-Community Kiwanis Club, Victorville Motors, Pizza Factory Phelan, Phelan McDonalds, Desert Community Banks of Phelan-Wrightwood, and A-Tech Transmission in Hesperia. Also, thanks to Serrano High School students and staff, Heritage School Phelan students, and faculty for their creativity and talent.

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