Event-NewsEnterprise – Article by David N. Young/Photo by Loreen Berlin
The Los Alamitos Chamber 2023 Heroes of the Year. They include (L-R) Johnny Ra Los Al Medical, Staff Sgt. Patricia Estrada, 40th ID, SPC Rachel Galbreath, 79th Sustainment Command, Corporal DeAngelo Gossett, Los Al PD, Dep. Justin Meneses, OCSD, Nesi Stewart, Officer Mark Magrann, CHP, First Class Petty Officer Jonathan Trevino, Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station and not pictured, Orange County Fire Authority Firefighter Paramedic Kyle Clifford.
With the Community Center at Rusk Park in Rossmoor literally filled to the brim, community leaders gathered this week to resume what has become one of the most revered celebrations of the year for the area, the annual Heroes Appreciation Dinner.
“Thank you for being here,” said Los Al Chamber President Nesi Stewart, who in a sense paid tribute to the many in the community who had come to honor public servants from a wide variety of local agencies and institutions.
“Those you are honoring here today consider themselves ordinary people who get up and go to work just like you and me. The difference with our honorees is that someone saw something extraordinary in them and the way they do their jobs,” said Stewart.
In addition, Stewart asked the crowd for a moment of silence to honor Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer, a 30-year-old training officer killed outside the Palmdale Sheriff’s station two days before the event.
“He thought of himself as an ordinary person but didn’t get to go home,” she said.
Rossmoor Community Services District Board of Director and Vice President, Michael Maynard, welcomed the group to Rossmoor.
“Thank you for coming here and thank you for recognizing within your own teams within your own community,” said Maynard.
“How powerful and safe we feel because of what you do for us each and every day,” he said.
For the first time in the event’s growing, yet short history, the group presented a bouquet to Stacy Roberts, the widow of retired OCFA Fire Chief Ron Roberts, who served the fire service for decades before an unexpected death shortly after his retirement.
“This is by far, the hardest speech I’ve ever had to write,” said Los Alamitos City Council woman Shelley Hasselbrink, who has served as Chairman of the OCFA.
“He dedicated 42 years of his life to the fire service in the state and in the community,” said Hasselbrink. “Chief Roberts passed away 125 days after his well-deserved retirement when he was starting to enjoy the prime of his life,“ she said.
“Today, we honor him and his legacy imprinted in our local fire stations,” she added.
Stacy, his widow, was brief. “Ron was the best, you all know that,” she said, “and that’s all I have to say.”
Los Al Unified Supt. of Schools, Dr. Andrew Pulver, served as master of ceremonies for the event. He introduced many of the honored guests in the room before moving on to the naming of this year’s heroes.
Pulver told the group that the Chamber invites each of the respective public agencies and organizations who participate in the Heroes Appreciation Luncheon to select their own honorees using internal criteria. They are then communicated to the Chamber for the Awards ceremony.
In addition to the Chamber, several local elected officials, or their representatives, were on hand to also honor this year’s heroes. They include;
• Officer Mark Magrann, California Highway Patrol.
• JFTB 40th Infantry Division, Staff Sgt. Patricia Estrada.
• 79th Sustainment Command, JFTB, SPC Rachel Galbreath.
• Los Al Medical Center, Johnny Ra, RN, RNFA.
• Los Al Police Department, Corporal Angelo DeGossett.
• Naval Weapons Station, Seal Beach, Master-at-Arms, First Class Petty Officer Jonathan Trevino.
• Orange County Fire Authority, Firefighter Paramedic Kyle Clifford.
• Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Justin Meneses.
Pulver then joined the entire assembly as they gave all of this years’ honorees a rousing standing ovation to show “love and gratitude” for their dedication to service.
Under the direction of Director David Moellenkemp, the Los Alamitos High School Show Choir performed several tribute numbers for the Heroes and one saluting the Chamber and its President Nesi Stewart.
Special Angel Demelis, a singer with the 40th Infantry Division band, and a Downey Unified music-teacher in real life, got the event off to a star-spangled start with a stirring rendition of the National Anthem.