Travelers along Interstate 5 passing Dell’Osso Farms in Lathrop for a 30-day period starting May 18 will get a potent and somber reminder of the high cost paid for the freedoms many take for granted.
The Not Forgotten — the non-profit that stages the annual Manteca Memorial Weekend Commemoration at Woodward Park — will be placing the 7,000 plus crosses representing the fallen American soldiers in the Global War on Terror since Sept. 11, 2001 in a field facing the freeway where an average of 140,000 vehicles pass a day.
The display will also include 300 American flags, all 50 state flags, and the large portrait posters of the 70 soldiers from the region that had died in the Global War on Terror. Dell’Osso Farms will provide lighting so the display can be seen at night.
Organizer Pastor Mike Dillman said there is one additional feature — a 50-foot by 12-foot banner that reads “Freedom is an extravagant gift.” On the banner will be three large portraits of the fallen Pat Tillman, the NFL starter who quit his pro football career after turning down a three-year $3.6 million contract from the Cardinals and joined the Army to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The first portrait will have Tillman in his Arizona Cardinals football uniform with his name on it. A second is of Tillman in his Army uniform, also with his name on it. The third is the site of the memorial where he is buried that also carries his name.
The Manteca Memorial Weekend event at Woodward Park won’t be held this year. The commemoration staged for the past 15 years and drew upwards of 30,000 people to remember the fallen and honor others who have served is taking a one year hiatus. Dillman indicated that three of the key organizers have been experiencing health issues and several others that played vital roles with the extensive logistics that take a year to plan were unable to assist this year.
That said a low key event will take place this year at the Manteca Veterans Center while planning has started on a commemoration for 2018. Next year Memorial Day — May 28, 2018 — falls on the same day that marks Manteca’s 100th anniversary of incorporation as a city.
Mayor Steve DeBrum is working with the Manteca Chamber of Commerce that hopes to gets service clubs and other organizations together for a week-long centennial celebration. One of the centennial highlights will be the dedication of the completion of the veterans’ wall murals depicting World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Global War on Terror on the side of the Manteca Bedquarters building at Main Street and Yosemite Avenue in downtown. That is when the fifth and final mural depicting World War I will be completed. The Vietnam War mural is being dedicated next month.
Muralists believe Manteca will be the only community in California that has a series of five major murals honoring those that have served America in wartime during the last century.
This year Tillman said the Not Forgotten committee — whose mission also includes educating people about the sacrifices made to secure our freedoms — will host the California Traveling Memorial May 25-29 at the Manteca Veterans Center on Moffat Boulevard. It differs from the Not Forgotten’s Traveling Tribute that lists the names of all 7,000 fallen in the Global War on Terror along with several panels that have photos of select fallen. The memorial display coming to Manteca has the names and photos of all Californians that have given their lives in the Global War on Terror.
The display will be inside the Manteca Veterans Center and open to the public over the course of five days. Then on Memorial Day — thanks in a large part to a $1,000 donation from Sunrise Kiwanis — the Not Forgotten will be serving a free BBQ meal to veterans and their families in the park basin adjacent to the Manteca Veterans Center.
Dillman said the effort at Dell’Osso Farms to place the crosses will require a small army of volunteers.
They are needed on Thursday, May 18, starting at 9 a.m.
If you can help, contact Dillman at 209.629.9512.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org