Veterans honored for their service in San Jose

A Veteran’s Day dinner was held in San Jose to honor veterans for their service to our country and to their community. Blue Star Moms were also recognized.

"Today we are gathering and we are once again going to be the band of brothers and sisters," said Esau Herrera, chapter commander of the American GI Forum San Jose chapter.

It’s the first time since the pandemic, the San Jose chapter of the American GI Forum held its annual Veteran’s day banquet in person at the Drying Shed Restaurant in San Jose.

"When you think about it, it’s a relatively small group of people that say you know what I’m going to do something for my entire community, I’m going to stand up," said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

It’s a night to honor the brave men and women who served in the Armed forces, remembering those who did not come home and those missing in action.

"You just don’t leave nobody behind," said U.S. Army Veteran Richard Santos.

Santos served in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict. He’s now retired from the San Jose Fire Department after three decades. He’s among those honored urging more support for veterans.

"We don’t take care of our veterans," said Santos. "We serve our country honorably and then we come home. It’s not about money. It’s about taking care of folks who need medical help."

"I would have wanted a little bit more training to get back into civilian life," said U.S. Army Veteran Leslie Cepeda. "It was a hardship."

Another honoree is Leslie Cepeda, who after her service, was a coach for developmentally disabled adults. Once homeless, she received help through the Homeless Veteran’s Recovery program in Menlo Park hoping her story will inspire others.

"I hope they will reach out to the facility itself and get the help they need," said Cepeda.

SEE ALSO: Veterans Day photos: Honoring those who served in the military

All of them are also mindful that when a veteran serves, their family serves.

"While he was in boot camp that’s when September 11 occurred," said Adelle Button-Bell of Blue Star Moms.

Button-Bell’s son served in the U.S. Marines in Iraq. She had disliked the military before but has a new perspective and appreciation after he went into battle.

"We have our freedoms," said Button-Bell. "There are places you can’t do what we get to do. People don’t appreciate it. I so appreciate it."

Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or