On November 11, 2021, the community gathered at Conejo Creek North Park to remember the many veterans who have served our country and protected our freedoms. We were blessed to hear from Lt. Col./Pastor Larry Dickey who reflected on the many patriots in his family who served our country, dating back to the colonial wars of the 1750s.
Veterans Day has been celebrated since 1954, when it was first recognized as a federal holiday. Before that, it was referred to as Armistice Day to recognize the armistice (an agreement made by opposing sides in a war, to stop fighting) signed in 1918, ending World War I.
Conejo Creek North Park is a natural setting for the event with the Veterans Memorial Fountain faithfully bubbling in the nearby pond, and the five poles in the distance supporting flags paying tribute to each military branch of service. The open view of the sky made for an emotional observation of the annual airplane flyover, directly overhead. The Conejo Recreation and Park District (CRPD) has been honored to host this event for many years, though it is organized and sponsored by local military organizations.
While some communities choose to hold parades or other events and activities to remember our patriots, parks are often the locations of preference for gatherings and ceremonies of honor. Perhaps this reflects what our country’s founders envisioned when they crafted the first amendment, ensuring “we the people” were free to peaceably assemble. Communities may gather at plazas, roadway intersections, the steps of city hall or other locations of note, but parks have the space, serenity and amenities to make special events memorable.
Parks are open for the community to use in many ways: recreation, picnics, games, carnivals, concerts, parties – and yes, memorials. In November 2019, the community assembled at Conejo Creek North Park to dedicate the Healing Garden and remember those we lost at the tragic Borderline shooting. People comforted those in grief and recognized the heroes who saved many lives. Just like the Veterans Memorial Fountain, the Healing Garden is a monument of sorts, to remember the lives of those special to us.
Also located at Conejo Creek North Park is the Gratitude Circle where you can find plaques with the names of those who have contributed significantly to recreation and parks in our community. Many parks around the country have statues, plaques, monuments or other emblems to remember patriots, heroes or historical events important to their community. Taking the time to read the name plates, commemorative tablets or related history will give you some additional perspective on the community in which you live.
As we approach the end of 2021, and look forward to spending time with family and friends during Christmas and the holiday season, let’s remember to thank the veterans and patriots who have given and sacrificed much, or given and sacrificed all, allowing us to freely gather together and celebrate. Much of our gathering will probably take place at homes; but at some point, you might want to escape to a park. And when you do, be sure to go and read a name plate, commemorative tablet, or a plaque or two while you are there. You will certainly learn more about the people and community where you live!
Doug Nickles is a director/board member for the Conejo Recreation and Park District, the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency and the California Association of Recreation and Park Districts. The views expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of the district, agency or the respective boards.