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Memorial Day Service Recognizes Sacrifice
With a backdrop of sunny skies, a cool breeze and American flags whipping in the wind, dozens gathered at Burwood Cemetery in Escalon on Monday morning, honoring those service men and women who have served or are serving the country.

Hosted by the Escalon American Legion Gustafson-Thompson Post in conjunction with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the ceremony included an introduction and invocation from Post Chaplain Jay Davis, remarks by Pastor Bruce Persenaire of the Escalon Christian Reformed Church, presentation of the colors and a 21-gun salute.

"We are here to honor and preserve our memories of our men and women of the American Armed Forces who have passed on ... some in the line of duty, some after discharge," Davis told the assembled crowd. "I am proud to honor them ... proud you are here to pay your respects."

Davis said for him, there was an "almost visible presence of those who have gone on before us" during the ceremony, with small American flags also decorating the graves of service personnel buried at Burwood.

"May this ceremony today deepen your reverence and your memory of our departed friends and comrades," Davis said.

In his remarks, Pastor Persenaire said along with remembering those who have gone before, it's important to also keep in heart and mind the men and women now serving in the military.

"Monuments and memorials have been built to mark epic battles," he said of the various historical landmarks across the country and around the world, from Gettysburg to Iwo Jima.

"If monuments have not been built, we do remember the cost of freedom," he said, noting that the ultimate sacrifice by military members is part of the price. "It's all for freedom ... to make us free, keep us free, or to bring freedom to others."

Persenaire told the crowd that while he is not a veteran, his father is, having served in Korea.

"I am grateful, very grateful for what veterans have done," Persenaire said. "I want to thank you who have survived ... you remember the cost of freedom.

"May you never be forgotten ... because when we forget, we will no longer be free."

With an empty chair draped with the POW-MIA flag and assembled boots and rifles from past conflicts in front of them, members of the VFW's rifle unit then fired off the 21-gun salute and the traditional Taps was played to close out the brief ceremony.

Modesto resident Vicky Favila was one of the many people attending the 11 a.m. service on Memorial Day. She lost her dad, Arnold Gonzales, on April 27 of this year. A decorated war veteran, he had almost every service and valor award possible, she said.

And while there were ceremonies elsewhere around the Central Valley on Monday, she chose the Burwood service because of its small, intimate nature and serene setting.

"I wanted it to be more private," she said of honoring her dad's memory on this first Memorial Day without him. "This is beautiful, with the trees and the flags."