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Honoring the sacrifice of 65 men
Veterans of Foreign Wars members wait for their turn to lay a wreath. - photo by DENNIS WYATT

The ruffling of an America flag was the only other audible sound Monday as Bill Jones firmly and deliberately read the names of the fallen.

At the end of each name Jim Barbour solemnly rang a bell.

Starting with Hope McFall who fell on a battlefield in Europe in World War and ending with Charles Palmer III who gave his life in Iraq fighting the Global War on Terror, the two veterans repeated the process. They did so 65 times.

It is for those 65 men who gave their lives leaving behind spouses, children, mothers, fathers, and siblings as payment needed to secure America’s freedoms that over a hundred gathered Monday at East Union Cemetery to remember.

The price was staggering.

McFall died in France never having seen his son John McFall who went on to become not just a lawyer who served in World War II but to serve in Congress and to reach the upper echelon of House leadership as majority whip.

Americus Bettencourt and 37 other Manteca men — some barely 18 — spilled their blood after Pearl Harbor never to return home.

Brock Elliott just barely out of high school lost his life in the jungles of Vietnam never to cruise Yosemite Avenue again or to start his own family.

Palmer, driven by a sense of duty after serving a stint in the Marines and stepping away, rejoined only to fall in Iraq never to see his son graduate Manteca High or join the military.

Retired Major General Eldon Regua knows the price all too well.

“They were willing to risk everything,” Regau said as he delivered the keynote address for the Memorial Day observance coordinated by Jimmie Connors Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6311 and McFall Grisham American Legion Post 249.

Regau noted they did so to keep America safe and to secure our collective freedoms.

And while the day was to honor and remember the ultimate sacrifice made by 1.2 million men and women since the America Revolution, Regau noted there are 83,000 American troops stationed in 150 countries as he spoke making sure that the nation is secure.

They are all volunteers; many young men just barely out of high school.

And it is why Regau doesn’t despair.

He noted young men and women continue to step forward in an era when “we seem more concerned with American Idol than American ideals.”

Ragau stressed the need for Americans to remember each life lost.

“(We) pause to remember the American soldier, the American airman, the America sailor, the American Marine, and the American Coast Guardsman.”

Regua also reminded the crowd those 70 years ago next month the bloodiest battle of World War II took place on D-Day when Allied Forces lost 10,000 men.

“I am reminded that we have lost 6,800 men since 9-11 but in one day we lost 10,000 men,” Regau said.

Manteca Councilman Mike Morowit, speaking before the general did, noted that while he has not served he had seen youngsters  grow up, come to work in his store and then make a decision to volunteer to serve. 

He urged people not to forget their sacrifices as well noting that while none of the young men that he’s known since they were as young as 8 years old died in combat they have come home with other hurts.

Mayor Steve DeBrum reminded the gathering to “celebrate the lives taken away from us.”

Councilman Richard Silverman, a veteran himself, chose to end his talk by quoting General George Patton and the words he uttered about Memorial Day: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”