Freedom is never more than one generation away, Memorial Day keynote speaker, Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, told a hushed crowd at the Ripon Cemetery Monday morning.
She noted those were the words of the late President Ronald Regan.
It was a Memorial Day that once again touched the extended family who had lost a total of 24 loved ones in combat from World War I, World War II, to Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.
Olsen noted that Regan stressed that freedom wasn’t passed down to the children through the blood stream – “it must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same.”
Olsen said we gather here today as free men and women, owing those our freedoms who have fallen while defending this country.
“We literally owe them everything. I encourage every parent to tell their children the importance of Memorial Day and the reasons we commemorate it. It is so important that the next generation understands our freedom has been paid for hundreds of thousands of times in the air, on the battlefield and on and under the sea,” she said.
Olsen recognized that many in attendance had a relative who made the ultimate sacrifice defending their country and asked them to please stand and be recognized.
“To you I offer the most profound gratitude,” she said.
The assemblywoman added that she all too often saddened as she looks up and sees the Flag atop the capitol building in Sacramento flying a half-staff honoring another California service member who has lost their life in combat.
Olsen went on to offer a timely quote by Abraham Lincoln:
“I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
She recalled that it was the desire for freedom that the signers of the Declaration of Independence pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
“Without those who have stepped forward to defend our nation, we would not have the most precious gifts of freedom. It is a sacrifice that generations of brave men and women have made so that we can remain a nation of freedom and opportunity, so that we could always be a beacon of hope for those around the world who live in tyranny,” she said.
The Modesto-based assemblywoman asked her audience to hold in their hearts the members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard who have given their lives in the service of country and honor their memories.
It was November 1918 that Clinton McCausland was killed in action in World War I – the first of Ripon’s sons and daughters to give his life for his country.
In World War II there were a total of 17 who gave their lives from 1942 to 1945 with all of their names seen on the Veterans Memorial Wall in downtown Ripon.
They included Paul Madsen, James Harding Haller, Lyman Fulton, Raymond Clifton, William C. “Billy” Haller, John Kamps, Radomir “Rad” Kolak, Oscar “Auke” Poelstra, John Van Andel, Harmon Tornga, John “Jack” Donovan Harp, Henry Bouma, Jr., Wayne Coe, Viggo Verne Peterson, John Kenneth Smit, Carl Peterson and Richard Van Slyke.
Giving their lives in the Korean War were Arthur Devere Freshour, Jr., Norman Roseberry, and Orville Hill Roseberry. Lost in Vietnam were George Coutrakis and Gary Leon Van Tol. Joseph W. Perry was killed in 2006 in the Iraq War.
The bugler for the event was Gail Belmont and Linda Shelton and Phil McGill joined the presentation of the colors with drum and bagpipe.
The placing of the memorial wreath was under the direction of Cindy Kinard, president, VFW Ladies Auxiliary and Bonnie Nutt, president American Legion Auxiliary.