The “small” city of Simi Valley, California is known for its sense of community and patriotism. After all, it is the home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where thousands are gathered today to celebrate Independence Day.
Just 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles, Simi Valley is, in many ways, a world away. When a motorcycle officer returned home from the hospital after nearly losing his life in an on-duty collision, residents holding posters and US flags lined the street to welcome him. When the owner of a popular mom-and-pop restaurant needed a kidney, community groups banded together to raise funds, and another Simi Valley resident donated a kidney.
One small thing the city does on a regular basis is honor and thank its veterans. Red, white, and blue banners with a “thank you” message and the names of individual veterans and their military branch line the main thoroughfares in town.
Peter Bolanos is a Simi Valley native who served for nine years in the US Army. Mariana Reid, his girlfriend, recently surprised him with a banner of his own. His reaction to this honor – really, one of the smallest things we can do to show our gratitude – demonstrates the humility of our military veterans. (Warning – language)
He was flabbergasted, and look on his face says it all. When the banner is pointed out to him, the conversation goes like this:
Peter: Oh, s**t! How did that happen? How did I finally get up there?
Mariana: What do you mean, how’d you get up there? You did your time.
Peter: I was always wondering if I was gonna get one of those! Yeah, right on, Los Angeles! When did that get up there? Damn, that’s cool! We drive down this street all the time. Do you have to do something for them to do that?
Mariana: No, I just went and told them that you served for our country.
Peter: Damn, that’s legit.
The banner program is administered by the City of Simi Valley, whose employees install the banners, then take them down after six months. The banners themselves are funded by donations from the community, and the veterans get to keep them after they are taken down.
Mariana posted the video in a community forum on Facebook. She said she had been secretly working on getting the banner installed for six months, and when she noticed it had been installed on a street they drive down every day she wanted to show it to him before a friend ruined the surprise. So she got him into the car and made him cover his eyes until they arrived.
Peter and Mariana are expecting their first child (a girl!) in August.
Thank you, Peter, for your service to our country. We are all wishing you, Mariana, and baby Valentina the best!