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Even if the COVID-19 pandemic forces changes and adaptations for many daily rituals and special time-honored ceremonies, thanks and appreciation to military veterans for their service came through strong and clear during a Veterans Day program that was part of the regular Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Most years, the supervisors host an in-person ceremony in their chambers the week of Nov. 11. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m., acknowledging the end of World War I fighting at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918.
But this year, with the supervisors forced to meet remotely due to the pandemic, Contra Costa veterans were honored the same way Tuesday, via a 40-minute pre-produced program.
It featured all five supervisors, county Veterans Service Officer Nathan Johnson, U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, and Mike Hoffschneider, recently retired from his longtime position as a veterans service representative with the Contra Costa County Veterans Service office, and thus from a 46-year career serving veterans.
“Today is a reminder of our duty to lighten the burden for our service members, their families, and our veterans. We must all commit to working for our veterans to make sure they receive the benefits they earned.”Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa
The recorded program does include a callback to more normal times, with the color guard presentation and a performance of the National Anthem from the supervisors’ 2016 Veterans Day ceremony woven in.
The program made special mention of veterans who have followed military service with careers that have benefited their communities. County officials also extended their thanks to veterans service organizations throughout the county for their work to support those who have helped defend their country.
Also discussed in the program is the importance of the county’s Veteran Memorial Buildings, which survive in most Contra Costa cities a century after a national drive to honor veterans of World War I with the structures. The buildings have become centers of activity for veterans groups and other community organizations and activities.
Thompson, whose congressional district covers Napa County and parts of Contra Costa, Lake, Solano and Sonoma counties, served in combat with the U.S. Army as a staff sergeant and platoon leader with the 173rd Airborne Brigade during the Vietnam War. He also is a Purple Heart recipient.
Thompson, the program’s keynote speaker, said he is “150 percent opposed” to ongoing calls for privatization of Department of Veterans Affairs health care, instead supporting a fully funded Veterans Health Administration. Taking care of our veterans, Thompson said, honors them.
“Today is a reminder of our duty to lighten the burden for our service members, their families, and our veterans,” Thompson said. “We must all commit to working for our veterans to make sure they receive the benefits they earned.”
Hoffschneider was honored by the Board of Supervisors for his 15 years with the county. But after his stint in the Army from 1966 through 1969, he worked for more than 30 years with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. He retired from his county position on Oct. 1.
“Hoff,” as he is known to his friends, said he was grateful to have spent so many years helping his fellow veterans obtain the benefits they earned with their sacrifice for their country.
“It’s been my honor, and my privilege, to have provided that service,” he said.
The Contra Costa County Veterans Day program can be viewed on the county’s website.