WATSONVILLE—When a former member of the military dies, the Freedom Veterans of Foreign War Post 1716 Honor Guard is there to honor them with a rifle salute of three ceremonial volleys.
The service similar to the 21-gun salute is a military-style way to honor veterans and other dignitaries. The group performs about 50 ceremonies per year.
This year, two members of that group have been named veterans of the year by their respective posts: David Ambriz of the Veteran of Foreign Wars Post 1716 and Bob Alaniz of the American Legion Post 121.
Both of them will be honored during the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Veterans Hall at 250 East Beach St.
David Ambriz, Freedom Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1716
In 1967, Ambriz dropped out of Watsonville High School at 17 and, after getting his parents’ approval, joined the United States Marine Corps.
He trained at Camp Pendleton and then was sent to Vietnam, where he spent 19 months. He left the corps as a Sergeant E-5.
“I’m very proud of my service,” he said.
Ambriz returned to Watsonville, where he used the GI Bill to attend De Anza College and San Jose State University, studying administration of justice.
He then had a 33-year career with the Santa Clara County Transportation Authority.
A 19-year member of the VFW, Ambriz has served as Quartermaster, Senior Vice Commander and Post Commander. He has been a part of the Honor Guard for 9 years.
He has worked with local Boy Scout troops to dedicate flagpoles at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds and the Watsonville Buddhist Temple and places U.S. flags along Freedom Boulevard on Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day.
“To me, it’s a great honor just to be recognized by the community,” he said. “We’re both here to serve the community.”
Bob Alaniz, Watsonville American Legion Post 121
Alaniz said he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his brother, who served during the Vietnam War when he joined the U.S. Army in 1971. He served as an MP in Fort Gordon, Ga. and Fort Jackson, Fla.
His brother was killed during that war.
“I wanted to serve my country as he did,” Alaniz said.
He left the service as a Specialist 4th Class and moved to San Jose, where he worked in the wholesale business for 45 years.
Alaniz has been a member of the Watsonville American Legion Post 121 for nine years. He has served as Sergeant at Arms, Service Officer and Vice Commander.
Among other things, he helps place American flags at the gravesites of veterans in Pioneer Cemetery and Pajaro Valley Memorial Park on Fourth of July and Veterans Day.
Alaniz also helps perform about four military flag retirement ceremonies per year
He has served on the Honor Guard for 5 years.
“It changes your life, serving your country,” he said.
Both Ambriz and Alaniz distribute certificates and honor pins to senior veterans living in nursing homes and are members of the Knights of Columbus.
The 2019 Veterans Day parade will start at 10 a.m. from the parking lot of St. Patrick’s Church. Participants should assemble at 9:30 a.m. The ceremony at the Veterans Hall at 250 East Beach St. begins at 11 a.m.