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Ceremony, Celebration Mark Memorial Day
From the vintage airplane that buzzed the crowd on Main Street early Saturday to the solemn playing of Taps via a ceremonial bugle on Monday, Escalon residents turned out in force for Memorial Day celebrations and observances over the long holiday weekend.

Saturday's downtown parade, classic car show, music and barbecue was sponsored by the Escalon Historical Society and coordinated by American Legion Post 263 member Harold Peterson. The P51 plane passed low over Main Street more than once, fast and furious, prompting at least one call to the local police department about the 'low flying aircraft' over Main Street. No harm meant, though, as the flyover was just a signal to start the parade.

Serving as Grand Marshal for the event was World War II veteran and ambulance driver Jim Sanders, and the parade also included some vintage military vehicles, the local American Legion color guard, Scout troop members, the American Legion Riders motorcycle group, city officials, fire and ambulance representatives, and more.

Following the parade, live music was presented on the Main Street stage, with classic cars on display and owners there to offer information about them. The Historical Society also sold a barbecue lunch and the weather was picture perfect for a day at the park.

On Monday, the actual Memorial Day, dozens gathered at Burwood Cemetery on River Road for a brief morning ceremony and time of reflection, honoring those that have given their lives in service to this country and all those veterans who have passed on.

Legion Commander Tom Converse told the crowd it was important that they were there, that the day wasn't just about picnics and ball games.

"Somebody has given all so you can do that," he said about enjoying the freedoms we have today. "It is our responsibility as parents, as veterans, as a veterans organization ... to pass on the real meaning of Memorial Day."

American flags placed on the graves of service members buried at Burwood fluttered in the breeze as the ceremony played out near the entrance to the grounds.

Converse urged those attending to take the message he gave to heart.

"When you do see a veteran, just say 'thank you,' " he said. "Because it means so much to our veterans."

Making a special presentation to the Legion post as part of the ceremony was member Ken E. Miller, who donated a ceremonial bugle.

A Vietnam veteran, Miller said he got involved in the local Legion post at the urging of the late Palmer Little.

"I can't march anymore because of my back problems," Miller explained. "I was a POW in Hanoi, I was caned and beaten.

"I started out in the post with Palmer, he got me to join the color guard and I just wanted to give something back to the post they needed badly."

Miller said you can't always find a bugler to play Taps at the ceremonies so with the special bugle, they will always have the traditional ceremonial song ready to do.

A Corpsman with the 26th Marines, 1st Division, Miller served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1971, held as a POW the last two years. He joined the American Legion post here in 2001 and has lived in Escalon since 1988, moving here from Santa Cruz.

He said the bugle was his way of giving back to the post, something he could do for them since he is no longer able to march.

"I donated it for Palmer Little ... and for the 58,000 men and women who gave their lives in Vietnam."

A 21-gun salute and the playing of Taps with the ceremonial bugle signaled the end of the formal ceremony, with many then stopping by the graves of loved ones. Among those on hand were family and friends of the late James Ray 'Doc' Layton, killed in action in 2009. He lived in the Riverbank area and attended school in Escalon, and two sailors who served with him, HM3 Juan Villar and HM3 Jaime Laramata, made the journey to Burwood for the Memorial Day service, standing with Layton's family near his gravesite, honoring one of their own who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to his comrades and his country.