Multiple Agencies Supported Creation of Wall

2013-11-09T01:20:00Z Wall of Honor for military members dedicated at airportBen Miller/bmiller@santamariatimes.com Santa Maria Times

Every month, about 8,000 people come through the Santa Maria Public Airport. Many of them include military members, some of whom are coming back home.  All of them will now walk by a tribute to the nation’s military men and women.

A gathering of about 30 people watched on Friday as community leaders dedicated the airport’s new Wall of Honor, which sits just inside the front entrance to the terminal. The wall features eight flags on poles representing each branch of the military, prisoners of war and those missing in action, the state of California and the United States. All eight flagpoles are in front of a large American flag backdrop. 

Hugh Rafferty, a member of the Marine Corps League, originally came up with the idea.  “As I walked through this terminal one day, with the general manager of the airport, (I saw a banner) … up here that said ‘Welcome Home,’” Rafferty said. “When I looked at it, I thought that wasn’t good enough for what these people do.”  Rafferty, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and other community leaders helped to make the wall a reality.

“This will just give (returning service members) an awesome place to take some pictures, enjoy the moment with their family,” said Chris Hastert, the airport’s general manager, during the dedication.

Jack Pellerin, whose only brother died while serving on a Merchant Marine ammunition ship in World War II, gave an invocation during the ceremony.  “I have great respect for all veterans,” Pellerin said.

Rafferty said the airport services quite a few returning military members because of its proximity to Vandenberg Air Force Base, but that the wall will exist for all people coming into the region through the airport.  “This is really a tribute to all military men and women, past, present and future,” he said. “This is not a memorial, this is (an) everyday (way) to say ‘thank you.’”

November 9, 2013 1:20 a.m. • Ben Miller/bmiller@santamariatimes.com