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Observances Highlight Service, Sacrifice To Preserve Freedoms
Escalon American Legion Post 263 member Vince Giovaniello, front left, salutes during the flag lowering ceremony as members of the honor guard stand at attention prior to firing off the 21-gun salute later in the program for Memorial Day. Marg Jackson/The Times

With the flags flapping in the breeze, a crowd of several dozen gathered at Burwood Cemetery on Monday morning, May 29 for the first of three Memorial Day Services in the region.

Put on by the Escalon American Legion and American Legion Riders Post 263, the ceremony at Burwood on River Road featured a moment of silence for fallen comrades, remarks from a guest speaker, the placing of a memorial wreath, flag lowering ceremony, 21-gun salute and the playing of Taps.

Offering welcoming remarks and an opening prayer was Post Chaplain Casey Den Ouden, who also noted that the Post lost longtime member Angelo Blanco during the past year; he had been active in the Post and took part in many paraded, honor guards and more. Den Ouden then turned the microphone over to the guest speaker, Lucas Geiger, who serves as youth pastor at the Escalon Christian Reformed Church.

“Part of what makes America great is that we take that intentional time, that we recognize that our freedom is not free,” Geiger said. “That it was bought at a price through the sacrifice of your sons and daughters, through your fathers and mothers, through your brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, spouses. Freedom is bought through the blood of those who went before us and will continue to be maintained through the blood of those who come after us.”

He encouraged attendees to always remember the sacrifices made by those who gave their life in service to their country. He also noted that their deaths were “not in vain” since they helped preserve the freedoms we get to enjoy on a daily basis.

“Honor them by living in the light of their sacrifice,” Geiger said, and by embodying the characteristics they displayed, such as bravery, honor, courage, integrity, sacrifice and love.

“We stand here this morning free because of men and women who chose to love us in the most profound way possible, men and women who laid down their lives for us,” Geiger said.

Post member Al Bellinger placed the memorial wreath following Geiger’s remarks, with Post member Barb Willis and Bellinger then conducting the flag lowering ceremony.

Vince Giovaniello coordinated the squad providing the 21-gun salute and Fallon Nunes handled the playing of Taps.

At Burwood, in addition to the full-size flags lining the walkway leading in to the cemetery, small American flags were placed on the graves of service members buried there. That effort was conducted over a couple of days late last week ahead of the Monday morning ceremony.

From Burwood, the Legion members traveled to St., John’s Cemetery adjacent to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church along Highway 120 for a ceremony, then presented a third and final event at Farmington Memorial Park Cemetery on Escalon-Bellota Road.

Lowering the flag during the Monday morning Memorial Day service at Burwood Cemetery along River Road were Post 263 American Legion members Barb Willis, left, and Al Bellinger. Marg Jackson/The Times
Guest speaker for the Memorial Day service at Burwood Cemetery on Monday morning, May 29 was Youth Pastor Lucas Geiger of the Escalon Christian Reformed Church. Marg Jackson/The Times