They came from throughout California — the Los Angeles Basin, Central Valley farm towns, San Francisco, and mountain communities.
Photos reflected proud faces. Some were in Marine dress blues. Others were in Army camouflage. Attached to the photos were notes from loved ones telling of how much they are missed. The 750 plus Californians are part of the Remembering Our Fallen tribute, a national effort to make sure Americans never forget those who died for them in the Global War on Terror so those they left behind could enjoy freedoms of speech, assembly, worship, press, and other liberties that are often taken for granted.
The tribute was the anchor of Monday’s Memorial Day ceremonies conducted by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6311 at the Manteca Veterans Center on Moffat Boulevard.
After the traditional ceremony of reading of the name and then the ringing of the bell for each of the 64 fallen from Manteca-Lathrop in battles from World War I through the Global War on Terror that was capped with the traditional 21-gun salute and playing of “Taps”, those gathered filed through the Veterans Center carefully studying the display of the 750 Californians.
While many looked for the photos accompanied by details of when they were killed in action plus notes from loved ones for Manteca’s Charles O. Palmer II and Lathrop’s Michael Vegas, most ended up slowly going through the exhibit studying all of the panels. The notes as they were read in silence prompted some to tear up.
Earlier they had watched in silence as retired Army Sgt. Karl Knutsen explained the significance of the battlefield cross as three young Mantecans — all who have enlisted and are waiting to report — dressed in battle fatigues placed the rifle, boots, helmet and dog tags of the symbolic fallen soldier beneath the Veterans Center flag pole.
Assemblyman Heath Flora, R-Ripon, spoke of how America is free today because of the fallen and other veterans who have served.
He noted “their sacrifices” have secured our liberties.
Flora also presented an Assembly resolution to VFW Post 6311 Commander Carlon Perry recognized the Manteca post as the nation’s fastest growing VFW post for three consecutive years.
The post now has 648 members. It also has attained All American VFW post honors for four straight years.
The tribute to California’s fallen was in Manteca for four days thanks to the Not Forgotten Committee’s efforts. The non-profit organization that staged the Woodward Park Memorial Day Weekend Commemoration for 15 years also provided lunch for the veterans.
Due to a series of personal issues involving a number of key organizers the Woodward Park event went on a one-year hiatus for 2017. The 7,000 crosses along with the photos of the 61 from the Northern San Joaquin Valley and nearby foothills that have died in the Global War on Terror were placed this year as part of a display along Interstate 5 at Dell’Osso Farms in Lathrop. The crosses will be on display through mid-June.
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