MADERA COUNTY – Ceremonies were held all over the mountain area yesterday in observance of Memorial Day, honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.
The Oakhurst Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 8743 began the day early at the Oakhill Cemetery, where they, along with the American Legion and the Marine Corps League Griswold Mountain Detachment 1121, set up “The Avenue of the Flags,” displaying the burial flags provided by veteran families in the mountain area.
The contingent of veterans then made their way to the Wassama Round House in Ahwahnee for a 9 a.m. ceremony, followed by their second of the day at the Oakhill Cemetery at 10 a.m..
The non-denominational service at the Little Church on the Hill featured patriotic hymns by J.D. Murry, and a message by Pastor Paul DePledge from Sierra Vista Church.
At 11 a.m., fallen service men and women were honored in Coarsegold at the Picayune Cemetery, and the last stop of the day was the North Fork Cemetery, where dozens gathered after a ceremony at the Military Defenders of Freedom wall.
Marine Corp Retired Colonel Bruce Derry spoke to the assembled about the meaning of the ultimate sacrifice.
“Since the birth of our nation, 45 million have served in uniform. A million have died in its defense. All of them, but particularly the fallen, are part of a legend that, God willing, will never end – our America.”
Derry told the story of Sergeant William Stacy, a 23-year-old soldier from Redding, Ca., who, like many headed into combat, wrote a letter to be read in the event that he would give his life.
“My death did not change the world,” he wrote. “It may be tough for you to justify its meaning at all. But there is greater meaning to it. Perhpas I did not change the world, but there will be a child who will live because men left the security they enjoyed in their home country to come to his.
“This child will learn in the new schools that have been built. He will walk his streets not worried about whether or not his leader’s henchmen are going to come and kidnap him. He will grow into a fine man who will persue every opportunity his heart could desire.
“He will have the gift of freedom, which I have enjoyed for so long. If my life buys the safety of a chid who will one day change this world, then I know that it was all worth it.”
Sgt. Stacey was killed by an IED blast on Jan. 23, 2012, during this fourth deployment to Afghanistan.
Colonel Derry spoke of the price paid for what many in our country may sometimes take for granted.
“Americans must remember that freedom isn’t free. In fact, it is only possible because our fallen heroes have paid its high price. A price paid, which enables us to have ceremonies and observances like this in towns across this great country.
“Whether they fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, it is important to pause and reflect, to remember and give thanks. We owe them no less.”
Taps was played flawlessly by Lynn Russell, and the Marine Corps League Griswold Mountain Detachment 1121 delivered a 21-gun salute to end the ceremony.
The veterans returned to the Oakhill Cemetery at 1600 hours to take down the burial flags, and reverently store them away for another day of remembrance of those who serve.