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Honoring the ultimate sacrifice
More than 300 flags lined a corridor for the arrival Sunday of Gold Star families at the Not Forgotten Memorial Weekend ceremonies at Woodward Park. See additional photos on Page A7. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic . . . and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office that I am about to enter, so help me God.”

Army Brigadier General Emory Jack Hagan doesn’t take the oath that those serving America make lightly.

“This is the blank check every Marine, solider, airman, and Coast Guard sign for the oath of office,” Hagan told more than 2,000 in attendance Sunday afternoon during Memorial Day weekend ceremonies at Woodward Park. “We are here today to pay respect for those who have had their check cashed.”

The general looked to his left acknowledging the 7,000 crosses for those that have fallen so far in the Global War on Terror as well as the Vietnam Moving Wall inscribed with 58,310 more names stood where soccer games took place just a week ago.

By 3 p.m. today when the Moving Wall and the tributes will close, The Not Forgotten Committee anticipates upwards of 40,000 people will have paid their respect to the fallen. The afternoon ceremonies recognized the sacrifices of the fallen and the Gold Star families they left behind.

And as Hagan pointed, Memorial Day honors the sacrifices made by more than 1.2 million men and women who went to war to secure freedom since the days of the American Revolution.

Hagan noted 622,000 of those deaths occurred in the Civil War whose last battle was fought 150 years ago this year.

“That’s 49 percent of all casualties in more than 200 years,” Hagan emphasized.

Hagan said the Civil War experience demonstrated what sets America apart.

When the war that pitted brother against brother ended, he noted hands were shook and everyone went home.

“No one was hung, no one was sent to jail,” Hagan said.

The general said of all the memorial events that have been conducted through the years one poignant occurrence has been overlooked.

It happened on May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina. There 10,000 people gathered to pay their respects at the graves of 257 Union prisoners of war that had died in captivity by cleaning their grave markers.

Ceremonies this year noted the “first” sacrifices” from Manteca for both the Vietnam War — Marine Lance Corporal Brock Elliott — and Marine Corporal Charles Palmer II for the Global War on Terror.

Pastor Mike Dillman, the lead organizer for the Not Forgotten event, noted Manteca back during the Vietnam War had 10,000 residents and  lost 17 men in the fighting.

As the ceremonies drew to a close, Dillman noted he had been hearing some rumblings as he walked through the crowd about the “festival” atmosphere.

 Dillman said the committee strives to make it a family friendly event so parents would be encouraged to bring their bring children.

“If it was just speeches, children would not come,” Dillman said.

Once at Woodward Park, Dillman said children would be able to see the 7,000 crosses, the Vietnam Moving Wall with 58,310 names, veterans, men and women with prosthetics, and those in uniform.

Dillman said that when parents get home and their kids ask them what the crosses were for and about the names on the wall they should tell them that they represent the heavy price paid for our freedom.

As for the fireworks in the evening, Dillman said it was to celebrate the safe return of others who has served and to give Vietnam veterans a welcome home they never received.