Uniforms of many kinds were evident at the recent Memorial Day observance in downtown Riverbank.
There were Police, Fire and NJROTC uniforms as well as those of local Boy Scouts and their leaders, at the event held Monday, May 28, at the Memorial Wall in front of the Riverbank Community Center.
The Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps was on hand to present the colors, after an introduction by Mayor Richard D. O’Brien. The National Anthem was played on a trumpet by Wayne Hill, followed by an Invocation given by Reverend Charles Neal.
It was a nice warm day, with lots of shade under the trees for the 100 or so attendees. Both Mayor O’Brien and Featured Speaker Kristin Olsen, First District Stanislaus County Supervisor and a Riverbank resident, spoke of the sacrifices of the many service men and women who gave up their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. Also, they both noted the empty place in the lives of their families, the vacant spot at the dinner table that those left behind suffer.
Olsen and resident Edward Jones, a Korean War veteran known lovingly as ‘Fast Eddie’ to townsfolk, worked together to lay a wreath in front of the Memorial Wall.
The wall was dedicated on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 1974, by the local Veterans of Foreign Wars unit and donated by Ernest and Arnold Setliff. The main plaque says “In Memory of All Men and Women Who Gave Their Lives in Service of their Country.”
Also on the wall are smaller, individual plaques, with the names of some of the local service personnel lost to conflicts over the years.
They include 1LT Victor L. Johnson, Army Air Corps, S/Sgt. Arthur L. Tucker, Army, Marine PFC George H. Bates, Army Privates Warren H. Burket, Waymon J. Luton and Floyd E. Osgood, and Navy Reserve Ensign Homer Damigian, all of whom died during World War II.
Army Corporal Wallace W. Van Dyke died during the Korean War.
Lost during the Vietnam War were Marine PFC Jimmy D. Jordan, and Army Specialists Donald L. Chaney and Kenneth Breshears, along with Army PFC Mario A. Cisneros.
The newest installation is Navy Hospitalman (Corpsman) 3rd Class James Layton who died serving with a Marine unit in September, 2009. In addition to the plaque, his parents helped install a larger monument in front of the flag, with boots, rifle and a helmet indicating his service, in 2012.
The event began right on schedule, at 11:30 a.m., and concluded with the main flag being raised to full staff by Councilmember Cal Campbell just at noon. On Memorial Day, public flags are raised to full staff first thing in the morning, then lowered to half-staff to honor those lost. At 12 p.m., they are raised to full staff for the remainder of the day.
Memorial Day is a federal holiday for remembering the people who died while serving in our country’s armed forces. Originally called Decoration Day, it was observed every year on May 30, from 1858, honoring Civil War casualties, until 1970, when Congress changed it to the last Monday in May, creating a three-day weekend.