Veterans, members of the public and city staff helped commemorate Memorial Day this week with a “Salute to Our Heroes” on Monday, May 27.
The event hosted a crowd of more than 60 at the Veterans Memorial Wall, 3600 Santa Fe, in front of the Riverbank Community Center, beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Monday.
Welcomed by Mayor Richard D. O’Brien, he noted that the day also is marked “as the unofficial start of summer, a time for family barbecues, picnics and swimming” around the region.
“But it is also a day,” he said, “to remember ... all the men and women who served, and died, in our Armed Forces, from the American Revolution through today.”
He said, “Over 1.3 million men and women have died while serving their country. Those missing or wounded pushes that number close to 10 million. They were loved, they were mourned, they are missed.”
O’Brien told the story of what an American soldier in Afghanistan posted on Facebook just before Election Day, 2018.
“As the USA gets ready to vote in our own election, I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote,” the soldier wrote. “And whether Republicans or Democrats win, that we all remember that we have far more that unites us than divides us.”
The soldier who posted those words, O’Brien reported, was a member of a National Guard Unit. Also, he was the mayor of North Ogden, Utah.
“When Election Day arrived in Utah, so did the Honor Guard accompanying his remains,” O’Brien said, “the flag draped casket of Major Brent Taylor – husband, father of seven and an inspiration to millions. Major Taylor was in his fourth deployment.”
O’Brien said that labels we use today, like Democrat, Republican, red or blue state, liberal or conservative, matter little when facing rockets, gunfire or IEDs. He noted that politics are irrelevant to a family that hears the words “We regret to inform you ...”
A veteran himself, O’Brien reiterated that Memorial Day is meant to honor those who have lost their lives in service to their country.
“From the Revolutionary War to our current operations against terrorism, our men and women have made the supreme sacrifice while serving in wars and conflict. We honor all of them,” O’Brien said.
The program then included a Presentation of Colors and Pledge of Allegiance by Riverbank Scout Troop 1100, the National Anthem, sung by Reverend Jeremiah Williams and an invocation by Reverend Charles Neal.
It continued with the laying of a wreath at the Memorial Wall by local Korean War veterans Edward ‘Fast Eddy’ Jones and Mike Stavrakakis and the playing of Taps by Wayne Hill.
That was followed by a performance of ‘Amazing Grace’ by bagpiper George Harcrow, then a benediction by Reverend Neal. Then the two veterans raised the flags at the Community Center from half-staff to full staff, and the Scouts retired the colors. Reverend Williams sang ‘God Bless America,’ and the commemoration concluded at noon, with light refreshments following.