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Hometown Heroes Summer Class of 2018 recognized in Santa Maria

It was standing room only at Tuesday’s Santa Maria City Council Meeting but it wasn’t an ordinance of the public comment that drew the crowds.

Friends, family and city officials gathered to pay tribute to community members who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The next time you head down College Drive, you’ll likely see some new faces. Banners recognizing the Hometown Heroes Summer Class of 2018 will be hung Friday, July 27th.

Tom Martinez found out just minutes before Tuesday’s City Council meeting that he was an official Hometown Hero.

“Honored and surprised,” said Martinez, explaining how the nomination made him feel.

The Army Veteran is one for 21 Santa Maria vets honored for serving our country.

“It is particularly significant because a lot of the veterans were never recognized, especially after Vietnam. So finally, I think its time,” said Martinez.

Since the summer of 2016, close to 100 military service members have been honored with a commemorative banner flying proudly along College Drive.

“We love to recognize those who have given back selflessly, without asking and this is just a small way, by hanging a banner up and showing off to the world that’s driving through that we’re proud of our hometown heroes,” said Dennis Smitherman, Management Analyst for Santa Maria’s Recreation and Parks Department.

For the Rivas Family, this new platoon of local heroes reaffirms the communities’ commitment to saying thank you.

“We’re still a small town and tonight, I saw lots of my dad’s friends who are also going up at the same time, that was really cool to remember them as young men,” said Judith DalPorto.

The “Summer of 2018 Class of Honorees” include: John W. Korpal – Air Force, Ed Cullivan – Air Force, Michael Weldon – Navy, Bob Lopez – Marine Corps, Enrico Martino – Army, Clifford Scoles – Navy, Tom Martinez – Army, Radford Mawhinney – Army, William Haas Sr. – Army, Dr. Lawrence Lee – Air Force, Robert Kelley – Army, Gilbert Cardoza – Army, Kieth Badenell – Navy, Enos Dias – Merchant Marine, Lawrence Rivas – Navy, Donald Rivas – Army, Nativadad Ramos – Army, Ed Gutierrez – Army, Florentino Manriquez – Army, Jean Eaton – Air Force.

“There’s a strong sense of patriotism and loyalty. We learned a lot of characteristics on how to serve our communities from our history here,” said DalPorto

Each flag is $250 and is paid for by sponsors.

The banners will fly for six months and then will be given to veterans or their families as a keepsake.

The “Winter of 2018 Class of Honorees” is currently accepting nominees. Applications can be submitted to either the American Legion Post; Veterans of Foreign Wars, or the City of Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department.

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