RIPON - They ranged from small children to a World War II woman veteran of the Marines.
They were gathered near the Veterans’ Wall and the Ripon Historical Society’s Military Museum some 200 strong on Monday to remember those who have served America.
As a garrison flag drifted in a slight breeze from the top of the Ripon Fire Department’s 100-foot ladder truck as American Legion Post Clinton McCausland Post 190 Vice Commander Ken Tyhurst welcomed those attending Ripon’s Veterans Day ceremonies.
The event was co-sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Nicholas P. Kukullica, Sr., Post 1051 located on West Ripon Road.
The Ripon High School Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) presented the colors..
Two children, four and seven years old, stood silently on the sidewalk seemingly mystified by the speakers, a soloist and the playing of the battle hymns of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Faith Gamaz, 4, and Kyndra Gamaz, 7, were focused on thinking about their brother and dad Derik Gamaz who they could only hope are coming home soon to them.
Derik, 26, a Ripon High graduate, is tentatively scheduled to return to Ripon sometime this month from duty in Afghanistan as an infantryman. He is bringing with him a Purple Heart along with a medal for valor after being wounded in combat. He has recently met with the President in the White House after getting back to the states.
Joan Mistlin, 90, is the woman veteran who was at the ceremonies early with her husband Tony. They walked along the nearby Veterans’ Wall where they found their names inscribed. The Mistlins own the Modesto Honda dealership of the same name and have long been credited for their monetary support of the Ripon community, specifically with the Mistlin Sports Park facility on River Road.
Tony Mistlin served with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. He was assigned to pilot and navigator duties aboard the Tiger Moth aircraft. As for why his wife joined the Marines instead of the Army, Navy or Air Force, he chuckled, saying that she liked the uniform. They both served from 1943 until 1945.
Ripon Consolidated Fire Chief Dennis Bitters hesitatingly walked up to the microphone and greeted the vets and their families, noting that he had not been in the military and felt somewhat uneasy about what he was able to say to them, expressing a degree of humility.
In showing his concern and respect for what veterans had suffered, he noted that his father had died at a young age when Bitters was just a boy due to his service related injuries from being in the military, stationed early-on in the Philippines. He had to undergo the tortures of the Bataan Death March and the rigors of being put aboard a Japanese transport prisoner ship and taken to a detention camp where he was confined to hard labor and abuse for five and a half years.
Like so many war veterans, his dad never talked about the horrors of his captivity when he returned home, he said. Bitters openly thanked the survivors, addressing them as the “Greatest Generation.”
Commander, Defense Logistics Distribution Depot, Tracy, Marine Corps Colonel Adrian W. Burke served as the keynote speaker for the Ripon ceremonies.
Col. Burke told of a belated Bronze Star presentation he had given to the aunt of a soldier at Sunday’s Veterans Day ceremony in Manteca. The late soldier, Robert Davenport, was given the award posthumously with a “Combat V” attachment for valor and heroism 43 years after being killed in South Vietnam February 7, 1969.
Davenport was only 23 at the time, and took the point position of his reconnaissance patrol in his Monkey Hill search effort to keep his men out of any initial line of fire should he happen to flush out the enemy. One of his men was recently quoted as saying, “All our lives depended on him that day.” Davenport was shot through the head.
Col. Burke said Davenport’s actions forced the enemy to expose their position that avoided an ambush, noting that the sergeant was killed instantly as he hand signaled the location of the Viet Cong to his radio man.
In addition speakers Mayor Red Nutt, and Ripon Police Chief Ed Ormonde addressed the group on the values of everyone remembering and respecting the sacrifices of their sons, daughters and grandchildren in uniform.
Soloist Melody Wilson sang the “National Anthem” at the opening of the event and later “America the Beautiful.”
American Legion Post 190 Commander Ken Lawson and VFW Post 1051 Commander Tracy Crawford placed a memorial wreath by the statues of service members after it was presented to them by their respective Ladies Auxiliary presidents Bonnie Nutt and Cindy Kindard.
The invocation was offered by the Reverend Ken Boonstra, pastor of the Immanuel Christian Reformed Church. Benediction was given by the Rev. Glenn Shirk, pastor of Grace Brethren Community Church, Ripon.
A lunch reception was held at the VFW Post on West Ripon Road for those who attended the veterans’ ceremonies.