Guest post by Renee Dallas
In June, the City of Orange was host to the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall as part of its mission to serve the veterans and families of those who served in Vietnam, many of whom would not have the opportunity to come to the permanent memorial in Washington DC. Orange was the only stop scheduled in California as the wall makes its way around the country. (Click here to see it coming through OTO)
That’s particularly noteworthy because the community of Orange has a long history of honoring veterans and supporting our troops. Back in 1919, the American Legion was granted a national charter from Congress to help young men who had served “Over There” in World War I to re-integrate into their hometowns and still remain in contact with others who had been abroad. The Legion served as a support group, a social club and a type of extended family for former servicemen. American Legion Outposts were established all over the country and in 1919, an American Legion Outpost #132 was established in Orange. W.O. Hart (Hart Park) elected as the first commander.
In 1928, the American Legion Hall building on Lemon Street was completed and is still in operation. Back in the day, Orange’s local outpost participated in Armistice Day Parades (now called Veterans’ Day) around the Plaza and scored a few trophies for best marching formation from 1922 to 1928. Down in the basement, you’ll find original photos of young men from Orange who served in World War I still on display! In the present, the local outpost actively serves as a refuge and meeting place for veterans from the wars that followed – WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars. And one of the best kept secrets in Orange is their Friday night dinners and dancing to the country western bands regularly booked there.
Another hidden treasure in Orange is the Veteran’s Memorial Fountain in the Orange Depot Park on Atchison Street. It was the brainchild of John Whiteriver, Commander of the American Legion in Orange, who worked tirelessly to build it as a remembrance for all veterans of foreign wars. In a cooperative effort by the Veterans of Orange and the City of Orange, it was dedicated on Veterans Day, November 11, 2000. The memorial displays the emblems of the five military branches with a cascading water display and has a sitting area for visitors who wish to sit and reflect. John, who passed away in February of this year, would be proud to have you visit.
Orange’s active veteran’s community gathers on the Plaza Wednesday nights for a flag lowering ceremony, and is also responsible for the banners around the plaza which name the men and women from Orange who are currently serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. If you’re in the area around 6:00pm, give a shout out, or even better, stop by and show your appreciation. You’ll be extending a long held Orange tradition that’s red, white, and blue.
Renee Dallas is co- operator of Old Towne Orange Walking Food Tours, which gives you taste of history, food and fun. The tour stops by the Veterans Memorial Fountain on its Farmer’s Market Food & Culture Tour every Saturday.