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Michael Stadnick, Jr. plays Taps during a wreath ceremony honoring all fallen veterans at the Freedom Monument Veterans Memorial in Santa Maria during the 2016 Freedom Monument ceremony. 

Len Wood, Staff

On May 2, 1968, United States Army Pfc. Richard Landers, an Orcutt native, made the ultimate sacrifice for our country during the Vietnam War. On Thursday his name will be added to a special monument in downtown Santa Maria, joining others from the region who died in the line of duty.

Each Dec. 7, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and the City of Santa Maria honor and remember fallen veterans from the Santa Maria area at the Freedom Monument in front of the Abel Maldonado Community Youth Center, 600 S. McClelland St.

Local veteran and civic organizations lay wreaths at the base of the monument after local dignitaries and guests address those in attendance about the value of remembering those that gave their all in service to the United States. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. 

A special traveling exhibit titled Remembering Our Fallen, which honors veterans from California who died serving our country since the War on Terror began, will open inside the Center after the ceremony.

Landers' name will the 113th added to the monument.

“Long overdue, we will be adding his name to those of his ‘brothers’ from Santa Maria, who lost their lives in Vietnam,” said Bob Hatch, Thursday’s keynote speaker and Freedom Monument organizer.

Hatch helped gather the names of the other Vietnam-era veterans on the monument, but missed Landers in his initial research. It was a message on social media that started the process of having the Orcutt man's name added to the monument.

“I'm not exactly sure how I missed Landers, but it took a Facebook post by a friend, Steve Lebard, for me to quickly determine I had missed a name. He helped me with background, which led us to his son,” Hatch said.

Landers served in the United States Army, 3rd Battalion, 506 Airborne Infantry.

The 19-year-old Orcutt man, who attended school in Santa Maria, was killed when Viet Cong forces attacked the coastal side of the base where he was assigned, according to Hatch.

At the time of his death, Landers had two sons, James and Jeffery; and his wife, Diana, was pregnant with a daughter, Lisa, who never knew her father.

Alfred Landers, one of Richard’s four brothers and three sisters, is expected to attend Thursday's ceremony.

The ceremony and the Remembering Our Fallen exhibit are free and open to the public.

As soon as the morning’s ceremony and dedication conclude, the exhibit inside the Maldonado Center will open for visitors.

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“The exhibit provides a semi-private, humble way of paying respect to the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice, while in service,” said Jason Davie, Recreation and Parks Department supervisor.

The exhibit includes photographs and information about the service men and women who have died during recent conflicts.

This is the second year the traveling exhibit has been hosted at the Maldonado Center. New this year, on Saturday at 2 p.m., Coastal Voices will present a free vocal performance.

At 4 p.m. on Friday local Girl Scouts will be on hand distributing handmade Red Poppies in honor of veterans.

Visitors can also write a thank you letter to those currently serving our country during the event.

The exhibit will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Dec. 12.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.


City Government Reporter