For the first time since it opened, the names of World War I veterans will be added to the Santa Maria Freedom Monument Veterans Memorial during a ceremony Dec. 8.

The 2015 Freedom Monument Veterans Memorial Ceremony will dedicate a World War I plaque that lists the names of 12 Santa Maria-area veterans who were killed during “The war to end all wars.”

The 12 names were uncovered through the diligent, time consuming research by the Santa Maria Historical Society and, in particular, the organization’s President, Edward “Jim” Zemaitis.

“It took considerable time to go through archival information, newspapers, letters and other researchable data to find these veterans,” said Zemaitis. “I felt it was important to appropriately identify these veterans.”

Bob Hatch, one of the founders of the Freedom Monument and a highly decorated Vietnam Veteran agrees. “I commend the effort because our goal is to recognize and honor all veterans who have died during time of war. If it were not for this painstaking research, these veterans would have remained forgotten.”

The addition of these veterans brings the total number of Santa Maria Valley veterans who have given their lives during time of war to 112. They are all honored at the Freedom Monument Veterans Memorial.

The ceremony is scheduled for Tuesday, December 8 at 10 a.m. at 600 S. McClelland, in front of the Abel Maldonado Youth Center. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held inside the youth center. Everyone is invited to attend this community event.

Scheduled to speak at the event are:

  • Bob Hatch, Military Affairs Chairman, will be the Keynote Speaker
  • Mayor Alice Patino
  • Glenn Morris, President and CEO, Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce
  • Vandenberg Air Force Base, 30th Space Wing speaker – TBD
  • Edward Zemaitis, President, Santa Maria Historical Society
  • Frank Campo, Chairman, Santa Barbara County Veterans Services Advisory Committee
  • Michael Stadnick Jr., Commander, Santa Maria Veteran Honor Guard Commander
  • Dave Cross, VAFB Commander Advisory Group Member, will be the emcee

Rounding out the Ceremony:

  • National Anthem – Gina Keough, Visitor and Convention Bureau Director
  • Presenting the Colors- Santa Maria Police Department Honor Guard
  • Playing of Taps – Larry Hill, Community Engagement Section Chief, 30th Space Wing

The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce financed the building of the monument in 2001 through a strong partnership with the City of Santa Maria. Each year the Chamber finances a new plaque or an upgrade to the monument, and each year there is a dedication ceremony. Over the years, the Freedom Monument Veterans Memorial has gained in significance.

“The Chamber of Commerce is honored to be a driving force in honoring these veterans and all veterans on behalf of the community,” said Glenn Morris, President and CEO of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to the plaque dedication, there will be a wreath ceremony where local organizations post patriotic wreaths in honor of all of the fallen veterans listed at the Freedom Monument.

Rounding out the program, TAPS will be played byLarry Hill, Community Engagement Section Chief, 30th Space Wing. The Santa Maria Police Department Honor Guard will present the Colors, and the National Anthem will be sung by Gina Keough, Visitor and Convention Bureau Manager.