Kenneth Bedsaul knelt before the pair of shiny freestanding walls, his digital camera aimed at one of the names etched on the smooth surface.
Next, he took another picture of the wall with his son, Kenny Jr., kneeling beside it.
“This is awesome,” was all Kenneth Sr. could say, almost at a loss for words when asked about what he thought of the portable World War veterans’ panels that was dedicated on Monday during the Memorial Day observance at East Union Cemetery in Manteca.
The dedication of the moveable wall consisting of two panels with the words, WORLD WAR on top, was one of the highlights of the solemn annual occasion honoring the bravery and unparalleled sacrifice of the men and women who gave their all for their country and freedom.
Here in Manteca, “you’ll never be forgotten are not just words; we mean it,” said Place of Refuge Pastor and Vietnam veteran Mike Dillman who literally arrived at the ceremony in time to preside over the dedication of veterans’ wall. He just came from an interview with one of the Sacramento television stations about the weekend’s two-day annual Not Forgotten Memorial event which has become the largest of its kind in the West Coast and one that he started about five years ago.
“When we’re long gone, this (veterans’ wall) memorial will stand tall,” he said, while noting that on the wall are the names of nearly 100 “men and women in Manteca who left their safe harbors to go out and fight,” giving their all “to guard our freedom.
“We dedicate this wall to them and their service. We pledge never to forget them,” Dillman said who then led the dedication prayer.
“Remember not to forget those who served,” echoed Commander Penny Winston of the American Legion Post 249 of Manteca who served as the program’s master of ceremonies. The post and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6311 jointly hosted the annual event.
The Memorial Day program on Monday was the first time the veterans’ wall made its public appearance. Made possible by the fund-raising efforts of the VFW and American Legion, the wall will not be a permanent fixture at any one place in Manteca but will be taken out for special events and then stored to protect it, explained Winston.
The featured speaker, Marine Corps veteran Burdell Brown, was unable to attend due to health reasons. In his place was United States Air Force veteran Rob Sealey.
The other highlight of the observance was the traditional laying of wreaths on the veterans’ flag pole by members of the Happy Wheelers, American Legion and Auxiliary, and the VFW and Auxiliary. Others who took part in the program were the Manteca Unified School District Honor Guard which posted the colors, American Legion Post 249 chaplain Art Averitt who led the invocation and benediction, East Union High choir member Kim LaMar who sang the national anthem, and Rodney McCleary of Post 249 who played the taps following the 21-gun salute.