Mark A. Forester died serving America in Afghanistan.
The Airman had purposely taken arguably the most dangerous Air Force combat job as forward ground air traffic controller. Forester was killed on Sept. 29, 2010 will trying to save a fallen comrade wounded during a fire fight.
One the pilots Air Force Senior Airman Mark A. Forester was working with that fatal day was Marine Colonel Frank Lett.
When Forster’s body was being prepared for return to his home in Alabama for burial, they found an American flag folded underneath his uniform. Attached was a note from the Airman saying that if he died for his country he wanted his blood mixed with the colors of America.
Upon hearing the story, Col. Lett when he returned stateside took the flag himself and flew a Marine jet to a small airport near Forester’s family home. He then walked four miles with the flag in hand to present it to Forester’s parents.
That story moved the Not Forgotten committee to honor Forester by placing his image on the 11th panel of the Traveling Tribute that lists all 7,000 Americans who have fallen so far in the Global War on Terror.
The panel is being dedicated Sunday at 3 p.m. at Woodward Park as part of the Memorial Day Weekend Commemoration. Forester’s family will be in attendance as well as 54 Gold Star families within a 50-mile radius of Manteca.
The story as well as the dedication also has prompted the second in command for the Marine Corps – Assistant Commandant General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. – to commit to being in Manteca Sunday.
“It is a major honor for Manteca having both Forester’s family and the general attend,” said Pastor Mike Dillman who is helping organize the event that draws upwards of 15,000 people in Manteca each Memorial Day weekend.
Dillman said the general’s attendance is tentative if pressing needs of his duties pull him away.
A C-17 flyover during the dedication ceremonies has been confirmed. The C-17 Globemaster flown by Major Alex Pelbath out of Travis Air Force Base will take place at 3:15 p.m. The C-17 will fly low and slow at 100 knots and 800 feet during the first pass, It will travel at 250 knots and 1,500 feet during the second pass.
The Gold Star families and Forester family will arrive at Woodward Park from a private luncheon escorted by the Manteca Police Department and the Patriot Riders. They will enter Woodward Park through a line of flags held by volunteers.
The Welcome Home Heroes Traveling Tribute will open at noon on Saturday at Woodward Park for public viewing. It will sit next to 7,000 crosses representing the fallen in the Global War on Terror.
Sunday starts with registration at 6:30 a.m. for the Wound Warrior Christopher Braley 5K Run/Walk sponsored by 24 Hour Fitness Manteca.
Sunday’s schedule includes:
•7 a.m. registration opens for the Marine Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II Memorial Car Show. There are over 300 vehicles already registered.
•8 a.m. Wounded Warrior Christopher Braley 5K Run/Walk starts.
•8 a.m. Opening ceremonies with Ripon VFW Post 1051.
•9:30 a.m. Vietnam helicopter landing sponsored by Dell’Osso Farms.
•10 a.m. Community Memorial Service with the choir “We Are Family” and Vietnam veteran Chris Lambert.
•11:30 a.m. The free kids’ energy zone sponsored by South San Joaquin Irrigation District, military exhibits, and concessions open.
•11:15 a.m. Richard Windfeathers on the Main Stage to start the USO Show. There will also be a community stage.
•Noon: The Electric Shoes on the Main Stage
•Noon to 1 p.m. Three helicopter landings
•1 p.m. The band Hari Kari on the Main Stage
•1 to 2 p.m. Manteca Police Department demonstrations
•2:15 p.m. Cheyenne Milligan on the Main Stage
•2:45 p.m. Arrival of the Gold Star families
•3 p.m. Traveling Tribute panel dedication
•4 p.m. Jim Anderson & The Rebels tribute to Elvis Presley’s early years
•4:45 p.m. Tri-Valley Community Choir of Stockton on the Main Stage
•5:30 p.m. We Are Family on the Main Stage
•6 p.m. Official ceremony honoring all who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States with We Are Family and Cheyenne Milligan performing the National Anthem
•8 p.m. Air Force Rock/Pop Band Mobility in concert
•9 p.m. Fireworks sponsored by Manteca Christian Preschool celebrating the safe return of all of those who have served in a war.
The Traveling Tribute will remain open for public viewing through 4 p.m. on Monday.