The poem read during the flagpole dedication ceremony at Beattie Park had passed through the hands of two soldiers, both killed while in service, before being read aloud by a World War II veteran to a crowd of 75 on Saturday morning.
Actor and Santa Ynez Valley resident Efrem Zimbalist Jr., a Purple Heart recipient from World War II, recited, “A Combat Soldier’s Prayer” as Diane Siminski, played the somber waltz “Ashokan Farewell” on her violin under a cloudless sky.
Zimbalist read the poem — about a soldier who learns of God in the face of war and death — after four airmen, crisply dressed in blue, from the Vandenberg Air Force Base Honor Guard worked in unison to raise an American flag up a pole paid for by the Beattie Park Flag Pole Committee.
The flagpole that sits atop a grassy knoll overlooking Beattie Park and the Lompoc Valley is a tribute to the fallen soldiers of wars past, current, and future, said Laurie Lane, who spearheaded fundraising efforts for the $3,000 project.
Those soldiers will never be reunited with family members.
“The families will never be the same,” said Lane, whose son is among the fallen warriors.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Mitchell Lane, a 1987 graduate of Lompoc High School, learned of the poem as he looked through files while stationed in Korea in 2003, Siminski, a committee member, said.
The poem had been found in the possession of a military member who was killed on Normandy Beach during World War II.
Laurie Lane is quick to point out that the flagpole is not about her son, a Green Beret who died in a joint Afghan-U.S. strike in the Zabul province in 2003.
Dan McCaffrey, director of parks, recreation and urban forestry, said the city was happy to accommodate the Beattie Park Flag Pole Committee’s request.
“It’s a true amenity that will bring another layer of symbolism to this community,” McCaffrey said.
The speeches made during the ceremony were kept simple and direct with “Let there be peace on Earth” played by the Star Spangled Ensemble at the start of the dedication ceremony.
Five civilian airplanes from the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Lompoc Chapter 275 flew overhead midway through the ceremony.
Col. Richard Boltz, 30th Space Wing commander at Vandenberg Air Force Base, also spoke.
“While a lofty goal, we will continue to fight for hope and freedom,” he said.
He also commended the committee’s effort. “Whether fighting for funds or advocating use of city property, you were not deterred,” he added.
The flagpole’s base features a plaque with seals of military branches in the order that they were conceived: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Air Force.
There is also a emblem for the prisoners of war and those classified as missing in action.
“We’re always sensitive about what goes in our parks, but this was significant,” McCaffrey said.
The flagpole dedication ceremony could be the beginning of more to come for the area.
Lane said her goal is to one day turn the area into a memorial similar to Santa Barbara’s Elings Park Veterans Memorial Walk, but funding and research still needs to be done before the project can take off.
“This is a remarkable small town,” Lane said. “This town is hungry to honor their fallen heroes. Everybody is excited.”
Lane has contacted the Lompoc Historical Society for help finding former military members who have served throughout history.
One day, the area could hold memorial plaque to the fallen military service men from the Civil War to the present.
“It’s a tribute to all of those who have given their lives in service of the country,” she said.