Beneath a gazebo on a wind-swept bluff overlooking the city’s aquatics center, about 60 people gathered Wednesday to commemorate the recent passing of a local hero.
The Rotary Club of the SCV dedicated a plaque to Army Specialist Rudy Acosta, who was serving in Afghanistan when he was killed March 19. The plaque is in a gazebo garden in the Santa Clarita Sports Complex on Centre Pointe Parkway.
Acosta’s name joins nearly a dozen emblazoned on marble squares placed in the center of the gazebo, those who have made the ultimate sacrifice since September 11, 2001.
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Led by Rotarian and recently-named SCV Man of the Year Harry Bell, the crowd sang “God Bless America,” after which fellow Rotarian Ed Bolden pulled a folded flag from his pocket and held it up so those gathered could say the pledge of allegiance.
In the center of the Rotary gathering were Acosta’s family – his mother, Carolyn, cousins Luke and Jacob Shapiro, aunt Carol and many others, all wearing crocheted red, white and blue necklaces – who commented that the support from the community has been overwhelming.
“You go to work or to school and come home every day and you think no one notices,” Carolyn Acosta said as the group walked from the gazebo into the city’s Activities Center for lunch. “But then something like this happens and everyone is there. We never knew.”
Steve Dixon, a Rotarian and friend of the family, said that he knew young Rudy from childhood, recalling a time that his son and Rudy played while Rotary volunteers set up for a car show at the Saugus Speedway.
“We thought we knew Rudy, but I thought it was interesting that after his death, we found out more and more good things about him,” he said. “What wonderful testimony.”
Dixon said that Rudy’s dedication to helping others was in line with Rotary credo of “Service Above Self.”
SCV Rotary President Barry Gribbons said that he was “awestruck” by the selfless decisions made by young people serving their country.
“It makes me so glad that we can make this presentation,” he added.
Members of the Elks Lodge presented Carolyn Acosta with their Medal of Valor certificate for Rudy and Paul Strickland from Assemblyman Cameron Smyth’s office presented her with the Assembly Daily Journal from April 6, 2011, the day that the legislature adjourned in Rudy’s honor.
Gribbons and Rotary Veteran’s Committee chair Jim Lentini brought Carolyn Acosta to the podium to give her a scroll from their club. She chose the occasion to say a few words about her son, noting that he loved history and would have been a good history teacher, adding that he loved his country more than anything else in the world.
“It was his plan to serve,” she said “But God had other plans.”
To see pictures from the community's tribute to Spl. Rudy Acosta on March 31, click here .