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Honoring sacrifice of 5,800 Americans
They gave their tomorrow so we could have today
A Marine places a helmet as part of the fallen soldier tribute. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
It could have been the story of  the Navy Seal who gave his life so others could live, or the 5,800 crosses honoring those who paid the ultimate price for freedom.

But on Saturday evening, United States Navy Rear Admiral elect Margaret Rykowski couldn’t contain her tears when reading the Congressional Medal of Honor Citation awarded posthumously to Navy Seal Michael Monsoor – who’s face graces the ninth panel of names on The Traveling Tribute of those who have died fighting the Global War on Terror that was unveiled as part of the Memorial Day weekend events at Woodward Park.

The three-day event, which is organized by a team of volunteers headed by Place of Refuge Pastor Mike Dillman, will continue today at 8 a.m. at Woodward Park.

Modesto resident Mike Anderson – who works at Manteca Auto Plaza as the fleet manager – officially unveiled the ninth panel. Another panel includes the name of his son that was killed while serving in Iraq.

“It offers acknowledgement of the sacrifices that our children have made,” said Anderson – who also helped emcee the event. “They gave their tomorrow – their future – so that we can have today.”

Gold Star Families – those who have lost a son or daughter during wartime – received a stirring welcome as more than a hundred veterans and JROTC cadets lined the entrance to Woodward Park and held their salutes from upon their entry until after the last person had been seated.

Manteca High JROTC Second Lieutenant Jeremy Logoteta didn’t have any problem volunteering his time to hold a flag and honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in order to preserve freedom.

“I think that it’s great to have a ceremony like this where we honor the memory of those who paid the highest price for democracy,” Logoteta said. “To have an event like this that remembers those who laid down their lives as well as those who are still actively serving – it makes me proud to say that I live in a community that supports something like that.”

Families from throughout the area – including the Monsoors from Garden Grove – were on hand to honor the service member in their respective families that selflessly gave everything for their country.

Just seeing the reception was enough for some out-of-towners to marvel at how a community pulls together for such a massive undertaking honoring those in uniform.

“I honestly couldn’t believe it when I saw everything that went into making this possible,” said Penn Valley resident and Air Force Major David Gore. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this on such a big scale, and it’s wonderful to be a guest of this community on a weekend that is so special.”