Unveiling the Legacy: Kern County’s Tribute to WWII Veterans at Jastro Park
Bakersfield, California was abuzz with pride and remembrance as hundreds gathered for a monumental event – the unveiling of the Kern County World War II Veterans Memorial at Jastro Park.
The unveiling wasn’t just about the memorial; it was an homage to the heroes of Kern County who served during World War II. Forty of these brave souls were specially celebrated during the ceremony, with numerous attendees being veterans themselves. Kerry Adams, a Vietnam veteran who was present at the event, beautifully encapsulated the sentiments of many: “We have to remember what came before us and what can possibly come after us. We have to remember freedom is not free.”
A Memorial of Profound Significance
The memorial is a remarkable structure comprising six pillars. Each pillar proudly bears the emblem of one of the United States’ military branches from the World War II era. More poignantly, beneath these emblems are etched the names of Kern County’s World War II warriors who sacrificed their lives for our liberty.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy emphasized the profound significance of this memorial. “We will honor this generation with this statue, with this memorial, with their names, and we will honor them more by learning a story for each of those names,” he expressed.
In a touching juxtaposition, the opposite side of every pillar lists the names of the WWII veterans from Kern County who were fortunate enough to return home. McCarthy aptly described the humility and selflessness of these veterans: “One of the greatest traits about them was they didn’t want any fanfare. They would tell you they were just doing what was needed… That they were not heroes but we know them as the greatest generation.”
The Heart of the Memorial: A Sculpture by Benjamin Victor
Adding a deeply emotional touch to the memorial is a sculpture crafted by nationally recognized and Kern native sculptor, Benjamin Victor. Instead of sculpting a soldier, Victor chose to depict a mother—a symbol of countless mothers who received heart-wrenching news during the war. This mother, holding a baby, has just been informed that her husband or son won’t return from duty. The detail is so poignant that you can see a tear rolling down her cheek.
Walter Grainger, a World War II veteran, was visibly moved. Reflecting on the overwhelming gratitude veterans often receive, he said, “It seems like the older you get the more emotional you get and it’s so common for people to say, ‘Thank you for your service’… the response is: ‘You deserve it.’”
The Kern County WWII Veterans Memorial at Jastro Park stands as a testament to the sacrifices made, the lives lost, and the stories of those who returned. As we move forward, we remember their legacy and the enduring lessons they’ve left behind.
Torrez, M. (2022, December 10). Kern County World War II Veterans Memorial unveiled in Bakersfield. KGET. https://www.kget.com/news/local-news/kern-county-wwii-veterans-memorial-unveiled-in-bakersfield/