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Volunteers sought to prepare for event

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Marine Sgt. Jimmie Duran, second from right, was among those helping put in place more than 7,000 crosses representing the fallen in the Global War on Terror before last year’s commemoration at Woo...

HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo

POSTED May 15, 2014 1:48 a.m.

Art Smith isn’t asking for much – just a few hours of your time, twisting screws and swinging a hammer.

The result will mean the world to those mourning the loss of a service man or woman this Memorial Day weekend. 

Smith is sure of it.

The Vietnam War veteran is soliciting help for the Never Forgotten Cross project. Smith is coordinating the effort under the auspices of Pastor Mike Dillman of The Place of Refuge and Pastor Andy Heath of Victory Life Center in Modesto.

Volunteers will gather at Woodward Park on Friday, May 23, to drive into the ground 7,000 crosses, each representing a soldier that has lost their life fighting the Global War on Terror. The project will begin at 8 a.m. 

“These crosses right here ... all these people have given their life,” Smith said. “They’ve given up everything.”

Smith is asking volunteers to bring a small hammer or sledge, crescent wrench, flat-head screwdriver, hat and sunscreen.

Refreshments and lunch will be provided.

Last year, a record number of volunteers finished planting all 7,000 crosses in less than six hours. At one point, he said, there were enough volunteers to fill an entire row.

“I quit counting at 85 people,” Smith said. “It was unreal how many volunteers showed up. That’s the largest turnout we’ve had. We had people coming from out of town and so many different groups.”

With temperatures expected in the high-80s, Smith would love to duplicate that feat.

“If you only have 30 minutes that’s fine,” he added. “Whatever you can do.”

The Never Forgotten crosses have become a staple of Manteca’s Memorial Day weekend festivities. While each cross represents a life lost in service, Smith says they are more than just visual attractions.

For grieving family members and friends, the crosses bring closure. 

For the community at large, especially those that volunteer their time to the project, it’s a chance to let those families know their son or daughter’s life wasn’t lost in vain. 

“You can’t thank a family for giving up their son or daughter, but hopefully this gesture lets them know we haven’t stopped thinking about them,” Smith said. “And hopefully it brings them some closure too.”

For more information on the Never Forgotten Cross project contact 209.482.5571.

If you’d like to learn more about Not Forgotten Memorial Weekend and its various events visit

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