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Fallen War Veterans Remembered
U.S. Marine George Bates was only 22 years old when he was killed at Guadalcanal in one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. "He died during the storming of the beaches," said his brother Sam Bates of Riverbank. "The Marines were in landing craft. Officials say he was killed in the water trying to reach shore. They never found his body." Sam Bates himself served in the Air Force as a volunteer toward the end of the Korean War. "But I don't count myself a veteran because I never saw active combat. I don't want to sully his name," he said, gesturing toward a new memorial to his brother and other local veterans that was dedicated Monday. Bates and two sisters, Betty Young and Dixie Avila, were among relatives who attended a Veterans Day ceremony outside the Community Center to dedicate six brass plaques honoring local servicemen killed in action during World War II or the Vietnam War. Bates added he and his family are very grateful to the city and others for raising this memorial to those who gave their lives for their country. The six servicemen commemorated on the wall outside the Community Center include George H. Bates, PFC Marines and Homer Damirgian, Ensign USNR who died in World War II and Kenneth L. Breshears, SPC Army; Donald L. Chaney, SPC Army; Mario A. Cisneros, PFC Army; and Jimmy D. Jordan, PFC Marines, who all perished in the Vietnam War. City officials, however, have learned of at least two more local servicemen who lost their lives in World War II and will have their names and plaques added to the memorial, City Manager Rich Homer said in his address. They are Vic Johnson and Arthur Tucker, a pilot who flew 18 missions and died on the last - and there may be more, Holmer added. Mayor Chris Crifasi said we could not repay in full what these men have done for our community and our country in making the supreme sacrifice. County Supervisors Chairman and Riverbank resident Bill O'Brien thanked all veterans for their sacrifices. "This will stand here forever as a memorial to those who paid the ultimate price to safeguard our freedom," he said, adding his appreciation to the Setliff brothers Ernie and Arnie for donating the memorial wall and plaques. Allen Trawick, Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Riverbank Post 6420 took the stand to recount his amazement at hearing a woman, who has a family member in the armed forces, questioning what Veterans Day was all about. He took her aside to tell her at considerable length why the United States celebrates Veterans Day. Kurt Vander Weide of Congressman George Radanovich's office was also among the speakers. Cadets of Riverbank High's Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps unit presented the colors to start Monday's ceremony, students Tessa Holmer and Tempest Robertson sang "God Bless America" and local pastor Scott Estes led the gathering in prayer. Trawick and others then raised another flag to join those already on the pole, a black one commemorating prisoners of war (POWs) and those missing in action (MIA). City government official J. D. Hightower donated this flag. The event concluded with the playing of "Taps" by Phillip Beck and serving of refreshments.