Menifee honors military veterans with park celebration and home giveaway

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A huge 50 by 100-foot flag hanging from Menifee Fire Department’s 100-foot ladder truck greets visitors coming to the Wheatfield Park Veteran’s Day Celebration Nov. 11 in Menifee. Tony Ault photo

The city of Menifee and Tunnels to Towers Foundation made it a special day for all the city’s military veterans with a Veteran’s Day Celebration at Wheatfield Park and a presentation of a new home to one special United States Marine Corps veteran who suffered catastrophic wounds in the Iraq war.

The Monday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day Celebration began early that morning at Wheatfield Park, with an Honor Our Nation’s Veterans event in Menifee which included a Veterans 5K run honoring those soldiers and sailors on active duty and all veterans living in the community. The event was sponsored by the city.

The 5K walk/run was open to all ages and abilities along with a one mile race and a children’s 1K run. Following the race, competitors received a medal commemorating their effort engraved with their name and date of the event.

Run honors vets

“It was an honor to run the race and it was to honor veterans and servicemen wherever they are,” Elizabeth Zamora, who came to Menifee from Escondido with fellow runner Matthew Compos from Lake Elsinore, said.

There were vendor booths in the Wellness Fair area of the park area near the Veterans Memorial where a huge 50 by100-foot American Flag was flying held aloft by the Cal Fire/ Menifee Fire Department’s 100-foot ladder truck.

The best moment for the many veteran’s attending the event were thank you speeches from Menifee Mayor Bill Zimmerman, Councilwoman Lisa Sobek and veteran Joseph Molina from the Veterans Chamber of Commerce. Veterans Paula Kemp, Alti Holcomb, Larock Benford, Ed Samualson, Jan Parker, Verne Horton and other veterans from The Valley Resource Center and Progressive Health Performance that help their fellow veterans were all called to the stage and presented certificates of recognition.

School Essay Contest winners

The local school district’s Veteran’s Essay Contest Winners were announced and read their essays entitled “My Hero Doesn’t Wear a Cape,” honoring the veterans they know and admire. They included the 1st to 3rd grade winner, Korynn Steenhoek from the Santa Rosa Academy; 4th to 5th grade winner Daniel Gonzales from Mesa View Elementary; middle school winner Nathan Phillips from Harvest Hills Steam Academy; and the high school winner Kyle Snyder from Heritage High School.

Veteran Steven Hodges II honored

A very special honor was paid to the family of PFC Steven Hodges II who served his country and recently died in Arizona. Zimmerman and a representative from Honoring Our Country’s Heroes presented Pvt. Hodges’ Gold Star Mother Jessica Hamilton with a recognition certificate from 23rd District Senator Mike Morrell, and a portrait of the soldier.

The honorees and those attending were directed to a small POW-MIA table set up by the stage in recognition of those servicemen and women missing in action or prisoners of war.

Concluding the Wheatfield Park Veterans Day Celebrations was a flyover from the P-29 Warbirds out from March Air Reserve Base.

“These events represent the great pride the Menifee community feels for our veterans and

active service members,” Menifee Community Services Director, Jonathan Nicks said. “Those who have answered the call to serve this nation deserve to be celebrated and we are honored and humbled to be doing that for them with our events on Veterans Day.”

Home for wounded Marine

From the park celebration, many of the veterans and families drove to Round Meadow Drive in Menifee where the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation presented catastrophically wounded U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Timothy Jeffers with a new mortgage-free home.

Arriving in a GMC SUV, Jeffers, escorted by members of the American Legion Veteran Riders on their tricked out motorcycles, was met by Paloma Valley High School NJROTC cadets and honor guard who continued his escort to the new smart home built by Woodside Homes in Audie Murphy Ranch.

Jeffers who lost two legs above the knee, his right eye, a finger on his right hand and suffered a severe head injury when he stepped on a land mine during a security sweep in Iraq was helped out of the SUV and into a waiting wheelchair.

Independence restored

Jeffers’ single story home has built in amenities all designed to restore some of the independence he lost in the explosion. The home features doorways and hallways wide-enough to accommodate his wheelchair, making it easier to get around in his home. All the home essential functions, including lighting, temperature control, security and more can be controlled via smartphone or tablet.

A tour of the home showed many of the features including a unique kitchen with pull down cabinet shelving, counters with reduced height and an adjustable stove that can lower to wheelchair height so he can safely prepare himself a meal.

Tunnel to Towers donation

Speaking at the Jeffers home veteran’s giveaway was Jack Oehm. Tunnel to Towers Foundation board member and Fire Department New York battalion commander; First Sgt. Imhotep Woodby, Jeffers commanding officer; Andrew McClure, Tunnel to Towers Foundation national community engagement coordinator; Menifee Mayor Bill Zimmerman and Local VIPs and Tunnel to Towers partners and sponsors.

The Tunnel to Towers “In the Line of Duty” program honors the nation’s heroes supporting our nation’s military, first responders and their families. To date the Foundation has spent more than $125 million in support those who sacrificed life and limb in service to the nation.

The foundation headquarters is located at 2361 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island, N.Y, and can be found online at www.tunnel2towers.org.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com