Freedom Monument Veterans Memorial Ceremony will honor Richard R. Landers

Michael Stadnick, Commander of the Santa Maria Valley Honor Guard, closes the ceremony with Taps at the 2016 Freedom Monument Veterans Memorial.

On Thursday, December 7, 2017, at 10:00 am, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and the City of Santa Maria will present a plaque dedication ceremony to honor Richard R. Landers, an Orcutt casualty of the Vietnam War. There will also be a Wreath Ceremony in honor of all fallen Veterans. The ceremony will be held at 600 S. McClelland St, in front of the Abel Maldonado Community Youth Center, where the Freedom Monument Veterans Memorial is located.

On the same day of the ceremony, a “Remembering Our Fallen” exhibit will be available for viewing inside the youth center. It will be on display until Wednesday, December 12 and open to the public.

The Freedom Monument was constructed in 2001 in a collaborative effort between the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and the City of Santa Maria. Within the monument area are remembrances to 112 Santa Maria Valley Veterans who have given their last full measure of devotion in times of conflict from WWI to the present War on Terrorism. Richard Landers will be the 113th casualty listed.

Each year there is a ceremony on or near December 7th, and since 2001 there have been plaques and ceremonies honoring fallen soldiers, POW-MIA, the Order of the Purple Heart, women veterans, and local Veteran groups. While the monument has been as thoroughly researched as possible, there are circumstances where a casualty who was not known before surfaces. In 2016, the Freedom Monument added Charles Walker, who raised a family in Santa Maria and was killed in Vietnam, and Phillip Hernandez, a Guadalupe Veteran who was also killed in the conflict.

Above all else, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce is committed to making sure that no Veteran who gave his life for our country is forgotten and will be forever remembered at the Freedom Monument Veterans Memorial.

PFC Richard Landers, United States Army, 3rd Battalion, 506 Airborne Infantry, was killed on May 2nd, 1968 in Binh Thuan Province, South Vietnam. He was a 19-year-old native of Orcutt and attended Santa Maria schools before enlisting in the Army.

Richard R. Landers will be honored at this year’s Freedom Monument Veterans Memorial.

On May 2nd, 1968, Viet Cong forces attacked the coastal side of the base where he was assigned. PFC Landers and PFC Tony Martisauskas were in position at a guard bunker when approaching sampans began firing mortar rounds and Viet Cong guerillas disembarked in a coordinated attack. The two soldiers returned fire and held the enemy at bay until reinforcements arrived. In the firefight, PFC Landers was mortally wounded. PFC Martisauskas was severely wounded and survived the attack.

At the time of his death, surviving members of PFC Richard Ray Landers included his parents, his wife Diana, and their two sons, James and Jeffery. Diana was pregnant with their third child when Richard was killed. The daughter he never got to know was named Lisa. Also surviving him were four brothers and three sisters.

The public is welcome to attend the plaque dedication and wreath ceremony on December 7th at 10:00am at 600 S. McClelland. In case of rain, the ceremony will be held inside the youth center.