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Major event honoring our veterans
Thousands expected at Woodward Park on May 24
Representatives of some of the churches and Manteca groups that are planning a major Memorial Day Weekend celebration at Woodward Park pose for a photo at the plaza at the Big League Dreams sports complex where a memorial to Marine Lance Corporal Charles Palmer will be placed that weekend. Palmer, a Manteca High graduate, was killed while serving America in Iraq. - photo by DENNIS WYATT

A Memorial Day weekend event honoring those who gave their all serving America is expected to draw thousands from throughout Northern California to Manteca.

Churches of all faiths in Manteca are banding together with veterans groups, the City of Manteca, the Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau and Manteca Chamber of Commerce to stage a major program dubbed “One Nation under God” on Sunday, May 24, at Woodward Park.

The park event will include day-long entertainment starting at 2 p.m. with a 6 p.m. ceremony featuring one of the surviving Navajo code talkers who played a critical role in World War II as well as Congressional Meal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis who attended Manteca High for three years. Several survivors of the Battle of the Bulge – the bloodiest battle in World War II – also will be present.

Those Japanese Americans who served in the 442nd Brigade, for whom a segment of Highway 99 is named in honor of, will also be attending. They served America in the European theater during World War II despite having their families placed in internment camps.

“We intend to celebrate the diversity that is the American soldier,” said Pastor Mike Dillman of the First Assembly of God who is helping organize the weekend. “When many think of a soldier they think of a white face but that is simply not the case. Men and women from all walks of life have served our country well.”

Dillman noted 11,000 of the 58,913 Americans killed in Vietam were African Americans with nearly as many Hispanic-Americans dying as well.

Gold Star families are also being recognized. Dillman said that 38 families from San Joaquin-Stanislaus counties have lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those who have serve in the military will be given free ration cards at Sunday morning church services so they can access free meals at a special tent during the Woodward park event.

Organizers have arranged for the Veterans Administration staff out of Palo Alto to be on site to address medical issues. They are also working to secure a judge who can help clear up minor infractions on the driving records of veterans to make it easier to help them look for jobs. In that vein, the California Highway Patrol will have a recruitment tent at the event seeking those veterans interested in a career with the CHP.

The traveling tribute to those who have given their lives so far in the Global War on Terrorism also will be at the park.

The East Union High marching band is among those that will perform that day. Organizers are still seeking entertainers and volunteers.

The evening will end with fireworks over Woodward Park

The First Assembly of God is condensing their traditional Memorial Day Weekend program. Two shows are planned on Saturday, May 23, at the Button Avenue church at 2 and 6 p.m.

On Memorial Day, a special ceremony will take place at the plaza outside the entrance to Big League Dreams where a plaque honoring Manteca’s Marine Lance Corporal Charles Palmer who was killed in Iraq will be dedicated. The plaza is being named in his honor.

Then at 10 a.m. traditional ceremonies will take place at the East Union Cemetery.

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