CASTRO VALLEY -- Wiping away tears, Theresa Yokela on Sunday placed a single red rose where the rose garden of her father's childhood home once stood. In its place now are six black granite stones etched with the names of acting, retired and deceased military men and women.
Patrick Pereira, who served in the U.S. Navy and fought in the Korean War, is one of them. Pereira is buried in San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Santa Nella, but his family now has a place to visit him near their home. And it's all the more special that it is on the property where he used to play football and raise chickens with his family.
"It's nice. I can come and sit where grandma's house (once was)," said Yokela, 52, of Castro Valley.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, about 1,800 people joined service members on Veterans Day for the unveiling of the Castro Valley Veterans Memorial at Castro Valley Community Park.
Two military fly-overs and speeches from veterans and county and state officials christened the memorial that organizers said is designed to last at least 300 years.
"I see this now as a place of healing," said retired Col. John McPartland, the master of ceremonies.
The 35-foot-diameter memorial features seven black granite slabs. There is an entry stone and one each for the U.S. service branches -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Merchant Marines and the Coast Guard -- which surrounded a 25-foot-tall flagpole with an American flag once flown over the U.S. Capitol.
The 394 names represent service members from World War II through soldiers who fought in Afghanistan.
Mickey Ganitch, the first name on the Navy stone, is a Pearl Harbor survivor who turns 93 on Nov. 18. He wore his military ribbons over a Hawaiian shirt Sunday and entertained the crowd by dancing during the Castro Valley Community Band's rendition of the Armed Forces medley of songs.
Ganitch was in a football uniform aboard the USS Pennsylvania, preparing to play the team from the USS Arizona, when the Japanese attacked. He said he next ran to his command station about 70 feet above the Pennsylvania, where he had a bird's-eye view of the deadly bombings.
"It's a bad dream," Ganitch said Sunday. "A bomb missed me by 45 feet."
Sunday was the first time many visitors had seen the memorial, which is the finished product of a project that started more than 20 years ago and survived multiple iterations as local veterans searched for an ideal location. They ultimately found one in the Castro Valley Community Park on Lake Chabot Road.
The land once belonged to the Pereira family. The family left Hawaii after World War II, arriving by merchant ship to Castro Valley and purchasing the chicken ranch in October 1945. Jerome Pereira, 74, who rose to master chief in his 43-year Navy career, was on hand to see his name next to his brother, Patrick Pereira, on the Navy's granite stone.
The park is also where Travis Amsbaugh, a Castro Valley native, spent his first birthday. Amsbaugh, a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, served two tours in Afghanistan during his five years of active service but died in a car crash in Orange County in September 2011. His mother, Minda Amsbaugh, donated $60,000 to help build the memorial.
"He's my baby," she said. "It's a place where his memory will continue."
The building of the memorial, which was designed by Michael Emerson, relied on private donations and used no public funding.
Contact David DeBolt at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.