Above, members of the Mercer-Prieto VFW Post 2043 stand at their post during Memorial Day ceremonies.

Memorial Day ceremony salutes those that gave their lives for Freedom

June 04, 2004
Mercer-Prieto VFW Post 2043 Memorial Day Observance draws hundreds
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesThe annual Mercer-Prieto VFW Post 2043 Memorial Day Observance drew hundreds of people to Santa Paula Cemetery on Monday for a solemn tribute to those who have lost their lives to war.The scene at the cemetery showed why the observance was originally known as Decoration Day with tall flags and small flags streaming in the breeze.Held at the Grand Army of the Republic monument, the Isbell Middle School Band, under the direction of Lou Lingo, played patriotic songs during the pre-program concert.Floyd Griffin led the crowd in singing The National Anthem and M-P VFW Post Chaplain Delton L. Johnson offered the invocation.“Help us remember that Memorial Day is not a day to glorify war but a day to honor those who have served,” and did not return, said Johnson.“What a great turnout,” noted Ty Woods as he welcomed the crowd. “We have some of the greatest veterans here today,” taking part in the commemoration.“It’s wonderful to see everyone with us to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” said Master of Ceremonies/Post Commander Ralph Leon.Commander Leon also noted the presence of past Commanders Carl Barringer and Fred Osuna as well as longtime Post Officer Lyle Gunderson.Col. Jerome L. Hess USMC (Rt.) was the featured speaker and offered a history of Memorial Day as well as a tribute to the men and women who lost their lives in war.
“They’ve been known as Yanks, WAVES, Gobs, even Joe, but back home there were other names for them” that denoted the affection of their families and other loved ones removed from the fighting.Col. Hess, a 33-year military veteran, spent seven years in the Navy and 26 years as a commissioned officer and aviator in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was also a fighter weapons systems project officer and was Commanding Officer of the Marine Aviation Detachment.A fighter pilot in the Vietnam War, he flew 221 combat missions in support of military ground operations and received numerous medals and commendations for his service.Col. Hess said that those now fighting terrorism must be supported, expressed his concern over the deteriorating Department of Veterans Affairs and noted that the World War II Memorial, an 11-year effort, was finally dedicated 59 years after the Allied victory.Contrary to the famous saying, “Old soldiers do die, so do young soldiers, fighting in popular and unpopular wars,” and the true meaning of Memorial Day must be reinforced as “a day to honor all killed for our country,” he noted.Pastor Mike Slagle offered the benediction and noted that the crowd had “heard the tributes to those who made the ultimate sacrifice” and offered comfort to those who suffered their loss.The traditional Placing of the Wreaths marked the sacrifices of those who lost their lives through generations of war and was followed by a salute to departed comrades by the Mercer-Prieto VFW Post 2043 and the Korean War Veterans Post 56 Rifle Honor Squad. Bugler Sammy Solace ended the ceremony with the poignant “Taps.”This year the Memorial Day Observance was co-sponsored by Pierce Brothers Stetler Santa Paula Cemetery.

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