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Manteca remembers the soldiers

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Former Manteca VFW Commander Carl Stappenbeck, right, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, and wife Ruby pay their respects during Memorial Day ceremonies at East Union Cemetery.


POSTED May 27, 2014 1:15 a.m.

Family get togethers, barbecue, or a celebration at the park like the big gathering that Manteca had over the weekend is “not the true meaning” of Memorial Day weekend, said American Legion Post 249 Commander Jim Winston to the sparse group that showed up Monday at the historic Union Cemetery on Louise Avenue and Union Road.

“It’s all about the veterans who paid the ultimate price, and there are 600 of them in this cemetery” alone, Winston said.

“Let’s not ever lose sight of the true meaning of Memorial Day,” and recognize their sacrifices in defense of freedom, added the commander who also emceed the short memorial ceremony held on the cemetery grounds, around the veterans flag pole where the American flag was unfurled at half-staff, along with a Missing in Action black-and-white flag in honor of those who never came home or who have yet to come home from the wars where they fought.

“Today is a special day to pause and thank their dedication,” said Iraq war veteran Ricky Pal who was the guest speaker. The representative from Congressman Jeff Denham’s office served in the Iraq war from 2000 to 2005.

There are 60,000 men and women soldiers in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties alone who have given their life in the service of their country since World War II, Pal noted.

They made sacrifices “to protect our great nation,” and so that everyone can enjoy “basic luxuries that most of us take for granted, and for these we thank you,” he said.

“We cannot ever thank them enough,” he added, and is proud to call these soldiers “my brothers and sisters.”

He concluded his speech with a special message to those who fought in Vietnam and were never officially welcomed home from the unpopular Southeast Asian conflict in the 1960s and 1970s.

“To all Vietnam veterans we have today, welcome home,” Pal said.

While some who attended the 10 a.m. ceremony noted the smaller-than-usual Memorial Day gathering at the cemetery, that fact did not affect the sense of tribute from those who were there. The Gold Star mothers and fathers – those whose sons and daughters have died in war – and the Blue Star mothers and fathers – were recognized with Beverly Villines, president of the American Legion Auxiliary, doing the honors. The laying of the wreath at the foot of the veterans’ flag, the highlight of the memorial ceremony, was performed by representatives of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post and Auxiliary, the American Legion & Auxiliary, and the Happy Wheelers.

Posting the colors were the members of the Manteca Unified School District Honor Guard led by Master Sgt. (ret.) Karl Knutsen of East Union High JROTC. They were Orlando Reyes and John Bennett of East Union, Morgan Newcomb of Manteca High, Tyler Travis of Weston  Ranch, and Robert Berndt of Lathrop High. Reyes played the taps at the conclusion of the ceremony.

This year’s Memorial Day observance was jointly hosted by the McFall-Grisham American Legion Post 249, and Jimmie Conners Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6311, both of Manteca.

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