WWII vets celebrate new stamp

By: ADRIENNE A. AGUIRRE - Staff Writer

ESCONDIDO ---- A commemorative stamp depicting the new National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., was dedicated Thursday at the main Escondido post office.

The emotional ceremony was attended by postal employees, community members and veterans, including former prisoners of war. Former POW Larry Cilestio, 79, who leads a POW support group in Vista, said it's good to be remembered.

"What I think about every day is not the fellows who were there but the fellows who didn't come back," he said. "At last we have our own memorial."

The stamp went on sale, along with other memorabilia, on May 29 when the World War II Memorial opened on the National Mall in the nation's capital. The stamp features a computer-generated design, by artist Tom Engeman, of one of two 43-foot arches and a section of the 56 pillars that curve around a fountain at the memorial. Each pillar represents a state or territory that comprised the United States in the World War II era.

"The new stamp honors the achievements and ideals of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, as well as the millions more who supported them from home," said Don Marbrey, manager of postal operations. "Stamps are unique reminders of the amazing, triumphant and spectacular accomplishments that shape the world we live in."

Veterans said recognition of their service has been a long time in coming.

"I think they should have had this done a long time ago," said Marine veteran Mike O. Valdez, 86, of Escondido. "Most of the vets are dying off. There aren't very many of them left."

For those who can't visit the memorial in Washington, D.C., postal officials say they hope the circulation of the stamp will bring awareness to those who see it.

"When you use this stamp, I hope it will remind you and all Americans of the courage of our men and women who served in the armed forces," Marbrey said. "As well as those who are fighting today to ensure the freedom we enjoy today."

Contact staff writer Adrienne A. Aguirre at (760) 740-3526 or aaguirre@nctimes.com

Gary Spizzirri, the Postmaster of the Del Mar Post Office, sang God Bless the U.S.A. during the ceremony commenorating the new National World War II Memorial stamp at Escondido's main post office on Thursday.