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Churches pay tribute to Ceres area veterans
Although World War II ended 62 years ago, the wounds of its veterans still run deep.

It was clearly seen in the faces of Gene Welsh and Terri Matthews, World War II veterans living in Ceres. The two men turned out for Saturday's Veterans Day observance hosted by the Ceres Ministerial Association in Whitmore Park. Both men fought back tears as their records of service were read by Vietnam War veteran Gary Lee Hall.

The two men were among approximately 23 veterans who were publicly honored at the hour-long event. They included Dan Abbott, Irv Gilgert, Amber Harwell, Steve Breckenidge, Lew Sims, and Don Donaldson.

It was an emotional gathering.

"You not only made the USA free, you made the world a better place," Hall told the two elder veterans.

Hall noted that Welsh watched approximately 28 of his comrades die in battle against the Japanese and personally wrote letters of consolation to the families of all the men. Welsh gripped a small American flag as he wiped his eyes.

Hall had a time to speak about his own war experiences on another soil. Hall said he went to Vietnam as "a teenager and came back a 40-year-old man."

"We don't stand as straight as we used to ... but we still serve God and country," Hall told the crowd.

Veteran Perry Ellis stood silent, dressed in camoflauge clothing and his face covered by a cloth. He represented the veterans who were forever silenced in battle. Hall said Americans need to speak up for those who paid the ultimate price so that they will not be forgotten.

An emotional Raymond Hill of Ceres spoke up for his son, Captain Raymond Hill who was killed Oct. 29, 2005 in the Iraq war. The Ceres war memorial is engraved with the name of Hill, a Ceres High School graduate, who was killed by a roadside bomb while enroute to deliver school supplies near Baghdad.

"He would have been here," said Mr. Hill. "This is a nice thing."

Pastor Randy Clark of First Southern Baptist Church, himself a veteran of Vietnam, spoke about veterans' sacrifices.

"Those who have known war, up close, do not forget it," said Dr. Clark. "They have forged a fellowship while facing the fire. They have had more occasion than the rest of us to ask themselves what is worth fighting for, to wonder what the real values that must be defended."

"I think this is wonderful," said Tony Mejias, commander of the Ceres post of the American Legion.