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5,800 crosses: A solemn reminder of freedoms price
Some 5,800 white crosses will line the storm retention basin at Woodward Park honoring those who have died so far in the Global War on Terror. - photo by HIME ROMERO
A slight drizzle had turned into a steady rain following the cracking of thunder while I was on an early afternoon run down Wellington Avenue on Thursday.

I never stop while running unless it is for traffic.

Yet that is exactly what I did as I reached Woodward Avenue despite being soaked.

Ahead of me were the first 500 of what ultimately will be 5,800 white crosses lining the northern edge of the 10-acre storm retention basin at Woodward Park for this weekend’s Memorial Day observation.

The simplistic white crosses are both stunning and solemn at the same time.

Solemn as you realize the price many have paid for the gift of freedom we enjoy today in this land called America. Stunning in the fact these are crosses representing the men and women not who died 60 years ago in World War II or 234 years ago in the Revolutionary War but who have died in the past few years and who are even dying today to ensure that the flames of liberty and freedom aren’t snuffed out by tyranny and hatred.

Those crosses represent men like Charles Palmer II.

Twenty-one years ago, Palmer - who once played football, wrestled, ran track, and was part of the Buffalo band - was among the sea of green seated on the Manteca High football field waiting to graduate. Just like those who are part of tonight’s Class of 2010 graduates, Palmer’s entire life lay ahead.

He gave his life for his country as well as for the freedom of present and future generations on these shores and abroad while serving as a Marine in Iraq.  The Manteca High student - who was well liked by his classmates, was good at whatever he tackled, and was recalled by those who walked across the graduation stage with him 21 years ago as a guy with an infectious sense of humor - had re-upped in the Marines after being out for a number of years. For Palmer, it wasn’t a hard decision to make. He called it “the right thing to do.”

Too often - even on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day - we forget that the bounty of freedom and liberty we enjoy in this country was paid for by the blood of men and women almost all of whom we have never met.

We have a unique opportunity to pay our respect and gratitude to those who have fallen in the Global War on Terror this Saturday at Woodward Park at 5:30 p.m. That is when the ninth panel of the Traveling Tribute will be dedicated.

On Sunday, Woodward Park will offer a wide range of upbeat as well as reflective moments sandwiched between fun and festivities to recall the men and women who have served and who have since passed away whether in the line of duty or after returning home to civilian life and going about raising families and being productive citizens.

On Monday at 11 a.m., downtown Manteca will see more than a hundred war veterans - including 36 from World War II - participate in the Memorial Day parade down Yosemite Avenue from Library Park to Garfield Avenue. It provides an opportunity to thank those who have served America by lining the sidewalks.

When all is said and done, this weekend is about the 5,800 men and women represented by those simple yet sacred crosses at Woodward Park - and the other hundreds of thousands who have died serving America.