The passing of Ripon’s former mayor and police chief Red Nutt meant many things to many people who saw his life’s accomplishments as a gift to the community.
Emotions were at an all time high among the military contingent at his memorial last week, especially in the hearts of the members of the 21-gun rifle team who knew Red personally for many years.
Red and I had met over 40 years ago, seeing him as an outstanding leader in the Ripon community whose memory will long be heralded by those he touched.
Saying Red was special is something of an understatement in looking at his endless accomplishments from his military service in the Navy to being elevated to mayor of the Ripon community — a position he was about to revisit in the leadership of the city council for 2015 before his passing.
The traditional 21-gun military salute by members of the American Legion Post 190 and the VFW Post 1051 veterans served as a proper conclusion to the memorial service at Calvary Church with the playing of Amazing Grace by a lone bagpiper and the bugling of Taps. Mourners sitting in the church were obviously riveted by the gunfire coming from the parking lot.
The rifle team’s effort took me by surprise as I hadn’t seen it noted in the program as members of the family were escorted outside the side an access door and those in the church remained in their seats. Within five minutes came the reports of the riflemen aiming their weapons skyward. Assumption caused me a definite sense of embarrassment that I will not soon forget, especially since I was a member of a similar rifle team in the Army.
Hearing the rifles’ reports I hastily made it downstairs and outside to witness the conclusion of the event first hand. I found the family standing along the west wall of the church at my far left. At right was a Ripon fire engine framing a group of JROTC rifle team members in fatigues. In retrospect they must have been concluding a secondary tribute for the benefit of the family — never seeing the Legion or VFW members.
American Legion Commander Ernie Tyhurst was obviously upset over the mistake and contacted me online noting that it was actually the military veterans from the community who made up that respected rifle team. It is with regret that this misnomer occurred at the end of a 1,200 word story.
Veterans in the Central Valley have long appreciated the efforts of the Legion in Ripon and the VFW with its hall on West Ripon Road. The American Legion has built quite a memorial for American veterans in the core of the downtown, complete with a museum and a sizable reflective black wall and life-size statues of combatants honoring those who served in uniform from the community. The museum presents an unbelievable collection of memorabilia including news reports, portraits of veterans and military aircraft models hanging from its ceiling.
The VFW Post on West Ripon Road, just outside of town, is a central gathering point for veterans who enjoy each other’s company. It includes a large stainless steel kitchen that has produced countless meals for the former GIs and their families. It doubles as a joint officers’ club and an NCO club for those who have served in foreign wars. The VFW also provides for veterans who did not see action overseas in a time of conflict making them associate members.
It is without a doubt that all too many citizens of the valley and veterans as well are probably unaware of what the two organizations have to offer and what they provide for the well-being of their communities. Manteca recently broke ground on a new VFW Post that will soon be under construction on Moffat Boulevard under the direction of Commander Carlon Perry.
Both the American Legion and the VFW are seeing their memberships beginning to dwindle from the passing of World War II, Korea and Vietnam vets. They need new members walking through their doors from the more recent conflicts to carry on their missions of caring for the benefits of their veterans.
In all too many cases our veterans have given more than their service to our country, they have given future successes in life for themselves and for their families due to the lifelong effects of their combat injuries — often forgotten and overlooked.