It was all about remembrance – as it should have been – on Monday.
Members of the Escalon American Legion Post 263 and the American Legion Riders hosted a series of four Memorial Day services scattered throughout the region, providing ample opportunity for residents to pay their respects to those service men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedoms.
The first of the four was offered at Burwood Cemetery on River Road, with multiple American flags lining the driveway and smaller American flags placed on the graves of local military members buried there. Assistant Chaplain Casey den Ouden of the Legion Post welcomed those in attendance and thanked them for spending part of their Memorial Day to honor the fallen.
Guest speaker was Bill Barnett, who serves as pastor at Grace Community Church in Lathrop, who said it was fitting to remember and honor those who have “sacrificed all and paid all” in the defense of freedom and all that America stands for, fighting in past wars and current conflicts.
Early on, this was known as ‘Decoration Day’ when women would clean and decorate the graves of soldiers, he said. After the Civil War it became Memorial Day.
“Baseball, barbecues, camping, the beginning of summer, they are not Memorial Day,” Barnett said. “They are the result of Memorial Day.”
Everything we enjoy, he added, was made possible by the sacrifices of those that have gone before.
“It is about the men and women who have served and sacrificed all for this country,” he said of the Memorial Day meaning.
Flags are lowered to half-staff in honor of the fallen, he said, but are also to be raised up later in the day.
The raising of the flag, he said, should symbolize pride and patriotism.
“I challenge you to be a flag raiser,” he said. “Be flag raisers with pride, flag raisers with conviction.”
Teresa Kinney, representing Congressman Jeff Denham at the ceremony, also took the podium.
“We live in an awesome country,” she said. “That people that sacrificed, they made it possible.”
Kinney also addressed the many veterans in attendance at the morning ceremony.
“Your selflessness is an example for all of us to follow,” she said. “Thank you so much. God bless you.”
Post chaplain Jay Davis was in attendance and it was noted that he will celebrate his 90th birthday this weekend. A listing of some Legion Post members lost in the past year was also read, including longtime members Bob Mangini, Leonard Pereira and Paul Dismukes.
Post members Richard Johnson and Ralph Verschoor then continued the ceremony, with Johnson placing a wreath near the flagpole and Verschoor handling the flag duties.
The firing squad provided a 21-gun salute, Taps was played and the crowd was dismissed.
“We thank you for attending, we thank you for remembering,” den Ouden said.
Additional services by the Post on Monday were hosted at St. John’s Cemetery adjacent to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, at Farmington Cemetery along Escalon-Bellota Road and at Valley Home Cemetery.