“Freedom is not free. Those men and women who wear the uniform gave the ultimate sacrifice and life, because of freedom.”
These words were spoken by Diego Hammett, who was awarded Veteran of the Year at Milpitas’ Veterans Day Ceremony yesterday.
Hammett, who was a First Sergeant and served 26 and a half years in the United States Army, spoke to the audience about his service and his travels all over the world.
Hammett is an active member of the Milpitas community. He has volunteered for the Barbara Lee Senior Center and continues to volunteer for various churches, as well as Milpitas Charity Bingo. Hammett is also a member of Veterans Helping Veterans, which holds bimonthly meetings in Milpitas. Not only does he attend all the meetings, but he dedicates his time and energy to driving veterans to VA appointments, and also does what he can to connect veterans to much-needed resources. Four days a week, he delivers food to the unhoused community, many of whom are seniors and veterans. He is also a Commissioner on the City of Milpitas’ Veterans Commission.
“One of his many values is to give back to the community and help others,” said Liliana Ramos, Chair of the Veterans Commission, at the event.
Planning Commissioner Bill Chuan, who served as a U.S. Army Crewman toward the end of the Cold War, was the ceremony’s Keynote Speaker. Chuan spoke to the crowd of his experiences serving in Fort Benning, Georgia, with his unit, which was part of the 197th Infantry Brigade. The unit was Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor; also known as Bravo 2/69.
In Bravo 2/69, Chuan gained an extended family. They supported one another, grew together, and bonded in a myriad of ways. After Chuan left the army, many of the men from his unit were deployed to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm, which became known as the First Gulf War. Fortunately, all of the men Chuan knew made it home alive.
“We had an unbreakable bond. It didn’t matter what part of the country we came from or what our racial or ethnic background was or what political party we belonged to. We can call each other any time and be there for each other,” said Chuan in his speech.
During his speech, Chuan also held up various items, like his unit crest and badge. He even held up a coin that was given out at the 2020 memorial service of Denny Weisgerber, who had served in Korea as an Assistant Platoon Sergeant. Weisgerber was also a three-time Mayor of Milpitas during the ’60s and ’70s.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Otto Lee, who served 28 years in the U.S. Navy, presented the City of Milpitas with a commendation at the ceremony. Assemblymember Alex Lee was also there to present Hammett with a recognition for being named Veteran of the Year.
“Two of my brothers got killed in Vietnam. Five of my first cousins got killed in Vietnam. Thousands of very good, close friends of mine got killed in Vietnam,” said Hammett at the ceremony. “That’s why, ladies and gentlemen, we must not forget. That’s why we must continue to honor them every year on November 11 with love in your heart.”