Turlock community members gathered together to remember those who have served in the military and honor those who lost their lives in combat. The Memorial Day Service in Turlock has been an annual tradition since 1963 at the Turlock Memorial Park, and was led by the American Legion Rex Ish Post 88 and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) this year.
The ceremony was dedicated to George Avila, Sr. and the Turlock Honor Guard.
George Avila, Sr., a well known citizen of Turlock, passed away Saturday May 12, 2012. George was well known locally for his participation in a myriad of activities that supported all military veterans of this country that he honored and loved so well.
His obituary states that to his “combat buddies” (some like him, who returned home) who fought and died shoulder to shoulder with him, especially during the Battle of the Bulge, he has kept the faith. Well done George! Mission complete, and now for the much-deserved rest that had eluded him as it did so many WWII veterans. Rest in Peace.
He may be remembered for doing those things he believed to be his patriotic duty. Such as year after year, raising and lowering the flag during each home game contested in the Turlock High School stadium. When no other members of the Honor Guard could make it, he performed the solemn ceremony alone.
The Honor Guard is made up of all volunteers, from members of the VFW, the American Legion, and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). Their main purpose is to honor the men and women who served in the armed forces, and those who sacrificed their lives while serving their country.
“This life, of freedom and liberty, has been brought to you by our military and paid for with their blood,” stated John Elliott, Commander of the Turlock Veterans of Foreign Wars, while opening the service. “The United States flag does not fly because of the wind moving it, the United States flag flies with the last breath of each military member who has died protecting it.”
The service then opened with the national anthem, a prayer, and a band playing a rendition of ‘The Caisson Song’, the original song of the United States Army. Mayor John Lazar then stepped up to the microphone to share sentiments of gratitude for the VFW, the American Legion, and for the military members who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“We live in a blessed nation,” stated Mayor John Lazar. “Countless people have sought out what has been called the American dream, a dream that encompasses our way of life, showcasing American citizens’ true potential and drive. Our dream is protected by fearless and self-sacrificing individuals who love and serve this country of ours.”
“Memorial Day is our way to acknowledge and set apart these courageous people. Whether they are old, or young, deceased or living, they are American heroes to us,” continued Lazar. “From the beginning of our countries history, to recent victories and tragedies overseas, the world has watched our troops with awe, seeing the overwhelming love they have for America.”
“It is impossible to guess how many lives have been sacrificed for our safety, but every single one of them had a single goal in mind. It was the safety of us Americans.”
“Memorial Day is more than a holiday for me,” explained Lazar. “It continues to be a time to honor and thank those who have dedicated their selves to the preservation of our nation. God honor those who have given, and continue to give, so much to our country.”
Veterans also shared with the audience and community members, such as Disabled American Veterans member Rosemary Lindsey.
“When you see a veteran or their family members, no matter how old or how young, give them a welcome home and thank them for their service,” stated Lindsey.
Congressman Jeff Denham was also present at the service, taking time to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“It’s my privilege to be here with you once again to honor those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” stated Congressman Denham. “Our friends, family, as well as dozens of fallen soldiers that we’ve seen in this most recent war.”
Congressman Denham also shared memories of his experience signing up for the Air Force at the age of 17, as most of his family throughout the generations had also served in the military. Denham also spoke about protecting veterans’ rights in Washington, D.C. as being a priority for him as he serves in Congress.
“If I could leave you with one parting thought it would be to honor not only those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, but those that will be returning home soon,” concluded Denham. “There have been many mistakes that have been made in our country as we’ve had our troops returning home, and we need to make sure this is not one of them.”
Congressman Denham also spoke of the importance for local businesses and companies to hire the veterans returning home from the war in Afghanistan, as he stated, “We need to make sure they have a place within our community.”