It happened suddenly at the end of Cheyenne Milligan’s “God Bless the USA” song and the 21-gun salute during the Memorial Day observance at East Union Cemetery.
US Navy veteran Bob Sage was standing and following the patriotic song with his right hand over his chest when his brother, Bill, who was standing next to him, fell to the ground.
“I thought he had died ‘cause I heard one of the girls say, ‘I can’t pick up a pulse.’ But then, a few seconds later he came to,” Bob Sage said.
Bill Sage, who is also a Navy veteran, was taken by ambulance to Doctors Hospital where he underwent some tests and then went home three hours later, his brother said.
Bob Sage said he and others who knew his brother well said their first thought was that Bill had a heart attack because he had one back in 1992. Also, his son and wife died months apart of a heart attack, said Bob Sage who served two tours in Vietnam in an aircraft carrier from 1964 to 1966.
He said he believes the two women who rushed to help his brother saved his life.
“They knew what to do. I think they were trained in medical emergency. They were both checking his pulse. I really want to thank them, but it happened so fast,” and he was not able to do so, Bob Sage said.
He said he was relieved that his brother was all right after the scare at the cemetery.
“I think he was just overheated. He just stood there too long. That’s what he thought,” Bob Sage said.
The annual Memorial Day ceremonies, which started at 10 a.m., were just about completed when the incident happened. After Bill Sage collapsed, which was at the end of Milligan’s second song, emcee Rodney Sevedge, commander of the VFW Post #6311, directed the color guard to delay the 21-gun salute in honor of the fallen veterans while someone called 9-1-1. By the time a Manteca Fire truck and the ambulance arrived, Bill Sage was conscious and talking. He was able to stand and get on the gurney for the ambulance trip to the hospital.
“I think he was really embarrassed,” Bob Sage about his brother’s reaction to the incident.
Both brothers are members of the McFall-Grisham American Legion, Post 249 in Manteca and attend the annual Memorial Day observance at the pioneer East Union Cemetery every year.