Organizers work hard every year putting together Memorial Day ceremonies to pay tribute fallen military service men and women. But retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry says it’s the people attending these ceremonies who give the events meaning and significance.
So, Eikenberry thanked the few hundred people who turned out at the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery Sunday morning for the annual Memorial Day ceremony. He spoke of the “individual stars” while referring to the men and women who went into harm’s way in service of their country.
“On this Memorial Day, let’s appreciate every one of those shining stars who will be great sources of hope,” said Eikenberry, who also served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from April 2000 to July 2011.
He challenged the audience at the cemetery in Santa Nella to pick a gravesite randomly and reflect on the life of someone who did their duty in combat or served with distinction.
The ceremony included a rifle salute and a rendition of taps by the California State Honor Guard. Members of the Blue Star Mothers and Families and Gold Star Mothers and Wives participated in the wreath presentation.
Cemetery Director Maggie Ayres told the audience that Memorial Day is a time to remember these fallen military heroes who gave their flesh and blood to defend others. “The freedom we enjoy does not come cheaply,” she said.
Los Banos Mayor Mike Villalta presented a photo memorial plaque that honors the lives of local service men and women. The plaque will be placed inside the main office at the cemetery.
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, the ceremony’s guest speaker, said Memorial Day weekend should be a time we can all set aside our differences and pay tribute, because common bonds are much stronger than any differences we may have.
The congressman said that it’s also a time to honor the families of fallen service men and women who gave America everything they had. “Their last full measure of devotion,” he said.
But it’s also a time to honor those still alive. Costa said healthcare, education and other key benefits military service members “have earned” are essential. He said the best way to show your appreciation is by working to make sure veterans have these benefits available.
Costa told the audience that America endures because countless veterans gave their lives in the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Rosalio Ahumada: 209-578-2394