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Ceres remembers those who gave it all
• Legion, VFW host event at Ceres cemetery
VFW honor guard
Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Honor Guard stand ready to give a 21-gun salute at the Ceres cemetery. - photo by Jeff Benziger

While many were enjoying a long weekend under unseasonably gloomy skies and rain clouds, a number of Ceres residents took an hour on sunny Monday morning to remember those for whom the day was meant: Those who gave up their lives defending the country in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The Memorial Day observance, held at 10 a.m. at Ceres Memorial Park, was staged by Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion posts of Ceres and drew remarks by Congressman Josh Harder, and Ceres City Councilman Channce Condit as well as representatives of state Assemblyman Adam Gray and state Senator Anna Caballero.

Harder recounted how the holiday started after the Civil War claimed about 600,000 American lives – the most of every American war combined.

“At the moment of greatest division in our nation we started Memorial Day as a moment of reconciliation, a moment of healing, a moment of unity,” said Harder. “And that’s I think the tradition we should be keeping on and thinking about.”

He said America would not exist if it were not for the countless men and women in uniform over the years.

Harder then gave VFW Post #10293 Commander Freddy Morales a certificate of recognition to the post.

Democrat Congressman Josh Harder spoke Monday morning at the Memorial Day observance at the Ceres Memorial Park while Freddy Morales of the Ceres post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) listens on. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Condit said it is important to remember the fallen heroes because bloodshed was required to protect freedom from evilness.

“Freedom and liberty is what stands the test of time,” said Condit. “The fallen and their families represent the struggle for the freedom that has made us the great nation that we are today.”

He cited an uncle, Rudolph “Rudy” Melendez who began his tour of duty in 1967 after being drafted into the Army. On Aug. 20, 1967 he was killed in battle and his name appears on the Vietnam War.

“Just as one of the many heroes we salute today, an uncle I never knew, but his name lives on and his death like all those before him and since was not in vain,” said Condit. “Just as you may have had loved ones who gave their lives to defend this nation and share a similar story to mine, remember that their story lives on through us, transcending history by becoming a memory for new generations to come and to never be forgotten.”

Councilman Channce Condit speaks to the crowd.

Also speaking were Jennifer Hidalgo, a staff member to state Senator Anna Caballero, D-Salinas. She recommended all citizens serve veterans and their community in their honor.

Lisa Mantarro Moore, a district director for state Assemblyman Adam Gray, said Americans have an obligation to remember its veterans and those who sacrificed their lives for freedom and liberty.

Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Lt. Brandon Kiely briefly spoke before American Legion Commander Walt Butler delivered a tender speech about his comrades. He emotionally spoke about how Major Brent Taylor, a Utah mayor, was killed last year in Afghanistan. Before he died Taylor urged Americans back at home to vote.

After a 21-gun salute by the VFW honor guard, and an explanation of the 13 folds of a memorial flag, the program gave audience members a chance to place a small poppy into a memorial wreath and call out the name of a loved one who served the country in the Armed Forces. Towards the end of the program, a “final roll call” was given of veterans from the area who in the last few years answered their final roll call. Names were read of former VFW and American Legion post members in Ceres, followed by the pronouncement of “no answer” and the ringing of a bell.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after the Civil War to commemorate the soldiers who died in the war. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.

Walt Butler
Liliana Hernandez belts out the National Anthem as American Legion post leader Walt Butler salutes. - photo by Jeff Benziger