Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
After the Memorial Commemoration of this past weekend, I am left not knowing who to thank first for making the event so very successful. Do I thank the Gold Star family members and the Wounded Warriors who let us embrace them and thank them for such an extravagant price paid for our freedom? Do I thank the literally hundreds of volunteers who work behind the scenes for months or on the day of the event doing everything from cleaning the toilets to providing whatever is asked of them?
Do we thank the many people, organizations, and companies who give us donations which resulted in enough money to cover the costs of our $40,000 + budget? Do we thank the City Council and the City of Manteca for giving us the use of the Woodward Park and all of the support from the Police Department to the Waste Management to the Parks and Rec staff?
Do we thank the Place of Refuge church and the volunteer team who provide concessions, host services, and man-power needed to put on such a tremendous salute? Do we thank the military who provide fly-overs, personnel, folks who are willing to give of their time on a day that they should be taking off to be with family?
Do we thank the Manteca Bulletin for the coverage week after week to help spread the news that the largest commemoration on the West Coast is taking place in Manteca? Do we thank the VFW and the American Legion for providing workers to place more than 6,000 crosses? Just who should we thank first? We thank them all! And the thousands of regional citizens, most of whom live in Manteca, who came together to receive Gold Star families, remember the fallen, and salute all who have ever worn the cloth of our nation. To you all, I say: thank you and God bless you. An event of this magnitude could never happen were it not for literally hundreds of people who come together to create a gathering place for patriots far and wide, young and old. Your love and passion to make sure that our veterans and our fallen are not forgotten is to be commended.
In this day of such a tight fiscal environment, we especially appreciate the support of the military that provide the amazing flyovers. Speaking of flyovers, they don’t just happen. A request for a military flyover begins six or seven months prior to the event. It begins with the proper military forms being downloaded and filled out precisely and then sent to the Pentagon for the various branches of the military to approve. Once approval has been given, the FAA must be contacted. Again forms are filled out and arrangements are made to meet with on-the-ground representatives who survey the site to make sure there are proper clearances per the requirements of the FAA. The local government, fire department, and police department must be notified and give clearance for the request. Then the sponsoring organization has the responsibility of contacting the military installations who have the assets that are being requested and solicit their support. With limited air craft and money, the military has to sort through the many requests that come their way and decide which event they are able to support. This year early on we were told that a C-130 missing man formation would be provided for the Manteca Memorial. We did not find out until literally hours before the event that some of the aircraft needed for the fly-over had gone down and were not available for service because of maintenance needs. We, as the sponsors, are always aware that whatever air craft fly-overs are promised to us, things can change literally hour-by-hour depending on the priority needs of the military. The bottom line is that we are extremely fortunate to have multiple aerial activities for the Memorial Day Commemoration. Most requests are denied and many are limited to a single aerial display. The scope and size of the Not Forgotten Memorial Day Commemoration in Manteca is gaining attention state-wide and beyond. For that reason the military has shown us tremendous favor and have been willing to participate in our event because of the citizens who come out in large numbers and support the memorial. You can help us by sending a big thank you to the Coast Guard, Air Force, and Army National Guard to my email address at MDillman@PlaceofRefuge.com and we will be so pleased to pass on your responses to them.
Thank you, Manteca, one and all, for an amazing tribute this past Memorial Weekend.
Pastor Mike Dillman
June 1, 2011