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West Valley City Journal

Dinner and program honors veterans across West Valley

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● By Keyra Kristoffersen

Bugler Jesika Jensen plays “Taps” at a ceremony for fallen soldiers. (Keyra Kristoffersen/City Journals)

West Valley City put on a program celebrating local veterans and their families held at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center on Nov. 11. The program included a dinner and was meant to commemorate veterans across the United States, but especially those from Utah. 

Veterans like Keith Pippin were invited. Pippin, who is originally from Idaho but has spent most of his life in Utah, first joined the Marine Reserves in the 1960s, but later transferred to the Air Force where he served for nine years in Alaska as a radio intercept analyst before being given a disability discharge. He then operated a dry cleaning business. 

“I saw this one and said, ‘Why not?’” said Pippin, who doesn’t normally join in on the larger Veterans Day celebrations. “It’s pretty nice.”

 The program began with a tribute to fallen soldiers led by a reading by Layne Morris, a moment of silence, and Jesika Jensen playing “Taps” on the bugle. A table was set with symbolic items like the white tablecloth meant to represent the purity of intentions of joining the fight, a single candle as the light of hope, a red ribbon representing a love of country and salt for the tears of loved ones left behind. 

Members of the Utah Air National Guard Base Honor Guard performed a flag ceremony and everyone was led in the Pledge of Allegiance by Brandon Burnham, a boy scout from Troop #568.

A patriotic medley of songs was also performed by the band Changing Lanes that included classics such as “America the Beautiful” before West Valley City Mayor Ron Bigelow talked about the sacrifices of those who had served in the armed forces.

Bigelow is an Air Force veteran who spent time in the pay office in Las Vegas, Nev. and spoke of the lifelong changes that service in the armed forces create for those who join and their families, even the National Guard who serve during peace time. The desire to see freedom maintained for others as well as themselves, he said, is significant within each and every one of them, but that most do not consider themselves heroes. 

“Ordinary people in unusual circumstances, simply doing our duty, a job that needs to be done, to preserve freedom, not only for ourselves and our families but for others throughout our country and even throughout the world,” said Bigelow, “This is the role we play and it is such an essential one.”

With those finals thoughts, Bigelow turned the time over to U.S. Congressman Chris Stewart, another veteran of the Air Force who served for 14 years as a pilot, setting three world speed records. Stewart wear his father’s wings from World War Two as an acknowledgement of the importance of service and of the six brothers, he and four others have all served in the military under the family motto of “Duty, Honor, Service to God, Family and Country.

“We cannot talk about service without talking about family,” said Stewart, “When we think of the veterans who served, we have to think of their families.”

Stewart spoke of the difficulties on the families that military service can create, with mothers and wives left behind to keep the family together and taken care of, sometimes alone or with very little experience as to how that it supposed to be accomplished. 

Along with the dinner, several displays were set up for attendees to peruse such as memorabilia and photos from various wars and conflicts. Veterans Services offered information on help and assistance that could be found along with colorful and informative books that had been published for the anniversaries of the Vietnam War and Kuwait for veterans to take home.

Another group present to celebrate was Canines with a Cause, a non-profit which adopts shelter dogs and pairs them with veterans for service training to help them with disabilities and PTSD. 

Mallory Geniusz who is in charge of their events said they look for the right fit between pairs and that this service is provided at no cost to the veteran and is meant to help with the healing process and improve the quality of life for both dog and human.

For information on donating to Canines with a Cause, visit:

For information about available veterans services and help, visit: