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Solemn Commemoration To Mark Memorial Day
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State Senator Susan Eggman and Assemblymember Heath Flora combine to place a wreath in front of the Veteran’s Wall at the Riverbank Community Center, at the end of a Memorial Day Commemoration on May 30. Ric McGinnis/The News

The Memorial Day holiday not only gives everyone a three-day weekend but allows people to honor those that fought and died defending our country. From those that battled in the Civil War to the men and women who lost their lives in Afghanistan, Memorial Day is a chance to show they are not forgotten and provide a reminder that freedom is not free.

“It is a day that I love and dread each year,” stated Riverbank Mayor Richard D. O’Brien. “While remembering those who I personally know that sacrificed their lives is a joy remembering our friendship, it also is difficult. I think our event provides the proper dignity and ceremony to honor our fallen warriors.”

The American flag was flying at half-staff when the Memorial Day ceremony began on Monday morning, May 30 in Riverbank. There were over 100 guests in attendance and according to O’Brien the event has grown each year.

“I had the honor of raising the flag with Duke Cooper (Founder of American Veterans First) which flies at half-staff until noon to honor the dead in the morning and living veterans thereafter,” noted Councilmember Luis Uribe. “I always reflect on this event but we should always be working for a better country in honor of those that have passed.”

During the ceremony there were a few different speakers including Senator Susan Eggman and Assemblymember Heath Flora.

“I met the brother of one of our fallen Riverbank warriors,” added O’Brien. “His brother died in 1967 at the age of 18. The grandfather of another was also there and he is truly thankful of our tribute. Senator Eggman and Assemblymember Flora spoke very well and added tremendously to the event.”

O’Brien said, “It is very small tribute compared to the sacrifice made for our freedoms. It is emotional for me.”

The program was hosted by Mayor O’Brien, who described the history of the Commemoration, mentioning a number of past veterans, some from California, some from other areas, and other eras. There was a featured presentation of the colors by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Honor Guard, the National Anthem was performed, and then an invocation by Pastor Charles Neal. Taps was played, and “Amazing Grace” performed on bagpipes, followed by a benediction by Neal. Finally was the laying of a wreath at the base of the Veterans Wall, in front of the Community Center, by Eggman and Flora. The conclusion was the raising of the flag.

The good sized crowd looked on, seated in front of the city’s Community Center, in the shade. Memorial Day is a federal holiday first established to commemorate the war dead of the Civil War, and now honors all who have given their lives in service to our country. It is a day not to be confused with Armed Forces Day, celebrated just two weeks ago, on May 16, which is not a legal holiday, but recognizes those who currently serve in our armed forces. Also not to be confused with Veterans Day, Nov. 11, which first was established on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, citing the day and time that the Armistice was signed ending World War I. It recognizes those who have served our country in the past.

“The Memorial Day event is one of those events that will always be part of this community because so many residents look forward to honoring those that have fallen,” remarked Uribe. “The Mayor did a great job, as always, hosting the event and bringing not only Riverbank together but the region. I’d like to thank Senator Eggman, Assemblymember Flora, and Melissa Santos (Congressman Josh Harder’s field representative) for attending the event and paying their respects.”

And while the day also serves as the unofficial start of summer, the councilman said it is much more than that.

Uribe said, “Although this is a one-day event we should always appreciate the fallen and their families who struggle with the pain every day.”


News Correspondent Ric McGinnis contributed to this story.

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At the conclusion of Monday’s Memorial Day Commemoration, the flags at the Community Center are raised to full staff, by Duke Cooper, of American Veterans First, and Riverbank City Council Member Luis Uribe. By tradition, the American flag is to be raised to half-staff at the beginning of the day, to honor those fallen in service to their country, then raised to full staff at noon, for the rest of the day. Ric McGinnis/The News