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Ceremony today honors Ripons fallen soldiers
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That freedom is not free is a truth that Ripon residents are reminded of year after year in the city’s Memorial Day Observances planned jointly by the American Legion 190 and Veterans of Foreign Wars 1051 posts. 
The annual observance takes place today at 10:30 a.m. at Ripon Cemetery with an impressive and colorful sight of flags flying and a sea of small flags denoting the gravesites of those who had served honorably in the nation’s armed forces.
The sponsoring veterans organizations anticipate a large attendance of patriotic residents for the well-planned memorial event that will feature Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen as the main speaker, along with San Joaquin County Supervisor Ken Vogel, and a greeting from Teresa Ramos-Kinney, Field Director of U. S. Representative Jeff Denham’s Modesto office.
VFW Commander-Elect John Franscella is presiding over today’s quasi-military Memorial Day ceremony is scheduled for 10:30 a.m..  The Memorial Bell Ceremony, a feature inaugurated last year, will be repeated in honor of those with Ripon roots who have sacrificed their lives in the nation’s wars. 
No hero deserves to be forgotten.  From U. S. Army Sgt. Clinton McCausland who died in France on November 2, 1918 to U. S. Army Sgt. Joseph W. Perry who died in Iraq on October 2, 2006, the peals of the Memorial Bell will remind attendees that freedom indeed is not free.  Each peal will be a reminder that 24 of Ripon’s finest gave their lives to guarantee the nation’s freedom, including Clinton McCausland and Joseph Perry together with  World War II KIAs Paul Madsen, James H. Fulton. Raymond C, Clifton, William C. “Billy” Haller, John Kamps, Radomir “Rad”  Kolak, Oscar “Auke” Poelstra,  Norman E. Roseberry, John Van Andel, Harmon H. Tornga, John ”Jack” Donovan Harp, Henry Bouma, Jr., Wayne M. Coe, Viggo Verne Peterson, Orville Hill Roseberry, John Kenneth Smit, Richard M. Van Slyke, and Carl Peterson; Korea KIA Arthur Devere Freshour, Jr.; and Vietnam KIAs George Coutrakis, and Gary Leon Van Tol.  Surviving family members of several of these men will be in attendance at the May 27 Memorial Day Observance.
 This year’s Memorial Bell Ceremony will be conducted by Ernie Tyhurst with the assistance of Helen Coutrakis, sister of George Coutrakis who died in action in Vietnam on 2, 1967.  The solemn ceremony honors the 24 Ripon servicemen who have died during the nation’s wars from WWI to the Vietnam War.
George Coutrakis was a native of Ripon and graduated from Ripon High School in 1966 after which he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.  He took his basic training at Camp Pendleton in southern California and was then sent to Vietnam.  While on patrol in the vicinity of Quang-Tri, George received fatal gunshot wounds from enemy rifle fire.  He had been wounded twice previously and was hospitalized in Okinawa.  After he had recovered from his wounds, he was sent back to active duty in Vietnam until that fatal day in 1967.  George was survived at the time by his mother, Mrs. Joseph Coutrakis, brothers Gus, Tony, and Steve Coutrakis, and sisters Despina Silva and Helen Coutrakis.  George is buried at Lakeview Memorial Park in Hughson.
Veterans attending Ripon’s Memorial Day Observance are urged to wear the distinctive cap of the veterans organization to which they belong or a cap displaying the name of their branch of service. Each year, veterans are asked to line up on both sides of the cemetery walkway during the preliminary parts of the Observance.
As in previous years, VFW post 1051 invites those attending Ripon’s Memorial Day Observance to a complimentary lunch at the VFW Hall, 12455 West Ripon Road, beginning at noon and continuing to 2 p.m.