Local News

Tuesday, Nov 09 2010 05:42 PM

Veterans Day Parade to honor Special Forces staff sergeant

BY JEFF GOODMAN, Californian staff writer jgoodman@bakersfield.com

Daniel Bonillo attended the local Veterans Day Parade many times as a young child to honor the men and women of the country's military.

In this year's parade, however, other kids and scores of spectators will be showing their appreciation for him.

Related Info

91st annual Veterans Day Parade schedule

Breakfast: 6 to 10 a.m. at American Legion Post 26 (2020 H St.)

Flag-raising ceremony: 8 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial (R Street at Truxtun Avenue)

Parade: 10 a.m. to noon (see map)

Lunch and open house: noon at American Legion Post 26

Awards ceremony: 2 p.m. at American Legion Post 26

AFTER THE PARADE ...

Buena Vista Museum of Natural History

What: Free admission for veterans with ID

Where: 2018 Chester Ave.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Phone: 324-6350

Applebee's

What: Free meal for veterans and military personnel with ID

Where: 9000 Ming Ave., Building M

Phone: 664-0974

Outback Steakhouse

What: Free Bloomin' Onion appetizer and nonalcoholic beverage for military personnel with ID

Where: 5051 Stockdale Highway

Hours: 4 to 10 p.m.

Phone: 834-7850

Sparkling Image Car Wash

What: Free full-service car washes for veterans and military personnel with ID

Where: All seven of the company's Bakersfield locations

Bonillo, 29, who currently serves as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Special Forces, has been designated as the "king" of Thursday's festivities in downtown Bakersfield.

"I'm pretty stoked about it," Bonillo said Tuesday. "It's pretty cool to come back to the town I was born and raised in and get the recognition.

"I've always had a great deal of respect for veterans ... It's like my version of a rock star."

The 91st annual parade, which was organized by American Legion Post 26 and other local organizations, is in place to honor people who, like Bonillo, have served their country by joining the armed forces.

Robert Seibly, a retired Army major and a board member for the Military Officers Association of America, said the events are only part of Kern County's strong support of military personnel.

"There's a great thankfulness for our troops and our veterans," said Seibly, who is also Bonillo's stepfather. "Little kids will hold up signs, and they kind of touch your heart.

"Those children, for all their years, there's always been a war. They've always lived with that going on. It gives us an opportunity as veterans to help them understand who veterans are."

Seibly said he will join Bonillo for a pre-Veterans Day assembly Wednesday morning at Discovery Elementary.

"It's wonderful to have him home," Seibly said. "He's done well for himself. We're real proud of him."

Bonillo, a Bakersfield native and North High alumnus, has spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other countries, and in 2008 passed the rigorous training required for Green Berets service.

Bonillo, whose family lineage can be traced largely through the military, said he filled out much of the enrollment paperwork the day before his 18th birthday. Then, at about 4:30 a.m. the next morning, he completed the application with his signature.

After working in the Marine Corps as a mechanic, Bonillo shifted into the Army in 2003 because he felt the branch had more options for him. He was selected for Special Forces training in 2006.

"The will of someone is a lot more powerful than you would believe," he said of his experiences over the last 11 years. "I've seen people do amazing things that you would never expect from an individual."

Bonillo said he is reminded of Bakersfield while he is overseas because his relatives often send him packages of Dewar's candy.

Bonillo, who is stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C., returned to the United States in July after his second tour in Afghanistan. When his plane landed in Bakersfield last week, it was welcomed with streams of water from fire engine hoses.

Bonillo said it's tough spending time away from his wife, South High graduate Dolores Fuentes, and their three daughters, 5-year-old Clarice, 3-year-old Isabelle and 6-week-old Caroline, but his passion hasn't waned.

"It's something that everyone should do -- service of some sort," Bonillo said. "I felt obligated because someone had done that for me."

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