Veterans, families of fallen soldiers, politicians and residents gathered Monday in Lakewood Memorial Park to honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
“The men and women we honor today were real people,” state Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, told the crowd as hundreds of American flags danced in the wind.
“They were sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters,” Olsen said. “They were strong and vibrant, they loved, and today, especially, they are greatly missed.”
She thanked those in attendance whose presence honored the memory of the fallen.
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“It’s our collective patriotism that will ensure that future generations will hear the sacrifices of those that came before us,” she said.
Speaker Frank Machado, a World War II veteran, remarked that for some, Memorial Day weekend is an opportunity to relax at the beach. That approach, he said, reminds him of his youth, but instead of “X-Fest, smartphones and flip-flops” it was “bobby socks and Levi’s.”
“We tried to find something more fun than what we did yesterday,” Machado said. “And then came that terrible Sunday in December where we were attacked at Pearl Harbor.”
He made note of the approaching 70th anniversary of D-Day.
“By the end of that day almost 5,000 men lay dead or dying on those beaches,” Machado said. “Here we are 70 years, four other wars and over 100,000 more killed since that time.
“So what I want you to do for me today when you go home tonight and when you get up in the morning, say a little prayer for those who are gone,” he said. “Make it a point to get behind those who are willing now to protect our way of life.”
The audience also heard Joe Rykert sing the national anthem and “God Bless America.” The Modesto division of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets posted the colors and lowered the flag to half staff. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, also addressed the crowd.
Modesto Boy Scout Andrew Stone of Troop 194 did his part to honor the fallen. Stone and his family painted and repaired some 6,000 white crosses that were placed around the grounds at Lakewood.