By Darrell Todd Maurina
Nearly 450 came to American Legion Dean Lucas Post 25 Tuesday morning for a Veterans Day breakfast that provided a free meal to veterans, firefighters, police, active duty military and their families.
Post Commander Ricardo Hidalgo described it as a “fantastic turnout.”
The Veterans Day breakfast has been an annual tradition in Clovis each year for more than three decades, ever since military retirees including Joe Vasquez and Ray Anaya began the event in the mid-1970s.
Both say they’ve forgotten the exact year the event started, but haven’t forgotten why they put it on.
“We invite the community … to come out so we can show our appreciation,” Anaya said. “It’s over 400 (people) now; it started out as a couple of hundred and year by year it grew bigger.”
Vasquez, who served as an Army cook from 1945 to 1966, said he loves coming to Post 25 early in the morning each Veterans Day.
Vasquez and other officers of the post arrived about 5:30 a.m. to get ready for the event, which this year began at 7 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m.
“We are veterans and we want to stick together to do something for other veterans,” Vasquez said.
Hidalgo said the annual event helps introduce members of the community to the American Legion and other veterans’ organizations. Many veterans in Clovis aren’t members of any of the local veterans’ groups and Hidalgo said the American Legion could be helping them learn more about the military benefits to which they are entitled after leaving the service.
The breakfast, however, isn’t intended just for recruitment. Hidalgo said it is intended to give something back to those in Clovis who have supported the military for many years.
“We feel (the breakfast) helps out the community, brings the community out, and lets them socialize,” Hidalgo said. “Our community does support us — the firefighters, the police, they all come out, even some of the city commissioners.”
All extra food not used at the event was donated to the Lighthouse, a mission feeding needy residents.
Hidalgo said there is no better time than Veterans Day to honor those who served their country.
“The veterans knew when they went out that they might be giving up their lives just to go out for everyone else to keep their freedom,” Hidalgo said. “Some of us came back, some of us didn’t. We wouldn’t have the freedoms we have today if it weren’t for our veterans.”