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5,800 crosses honor the fallen
Manteca event spotlights the high price of freedom
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6311 member Rodney Savedge helps put in one of the 5,800 crosses honoring those who have died so far in the Global War on Terror. - photo by HIME ROMERO
The group of young FFA students from Riverbank was at Woodward Park just after sunrise on Friday. Past the noon hour, they were still there with their mallets making sure the 5,800 white crosses that represent the 5,800 Americans who have died so far in the Global War on Terror are firmly planted in the grassy ground.

They are part of Manteca’s three-day salute that starts today at 5:30 p.m. at Woodward Park east of South Main Street off Woodward Avenue. That is when the ninth panel for the Traveling Tribute listing the 5,800 names of the fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan will be dedicated.

Sherrie Ayers, who brought along daughter Katie and son Nicholas, was there to oversee her children along with the half-dozen Riverbank High School FFA volunteers as they helped in the preparations for this weekend’s three-day grand Memorial Day observances at the park.

The young volunteers actually started working on the crosses several weeks ago, said Sherrie Ayers.

“They painted all the newly made ones and the ones that needed touch-ups,” she said.

The students took on this task as one of their FFA projects, she added.

Sherrie Ayers also said that her group started “planting” the crosses on Thursday “but they quit when it rained,” she said.

The three other FFA students working on Friday were Kenya Munguia, Miguel Cebreros and Tim Scallon. Another adult who worked side by side with the students was volunteer Danny Thomas.

The running line of 5,800 white crosses stood in stirring stark contrast against the dark green grasses on the northern edge of Woodward Park’s storm retention basin, while piles of equally white clouds against an azure sky served as a divine backdrop to the somber sight.

Each of the crosses represented a life lost in the War on Terror that began on that fateful morning of Sept. 11, 2001. The new ones that the FFA students painted represented the latest war casualties.

Among those honored by the thousands of stark white crosses are sons of Manteca, Lathrop and Ripon who lost their lives in the Iraq war. They are Charles Palmer II of Manteca, Michael de Vega of Lathrop, and Joseph Perry of Ripon, and Michael Anderson, Jr. of Modesto whose father is employed at Manteca Auto Plaza.