The Hilmar Community Band played as Turlockers and local community members drove in to Turlock's Memorial Day service at Turlock's Memorial Park and Funeral Home Monday.
People of all ages came decked in the nation's colors or veterans' garb from their time served. As Admiral Mike Seward of the VFW Post 5059 noted at the beginning of the ceremony, the Turlock Memorial Day service continues to grow every year, now in its 61st year.
Seward led the Pledge of Allegiance while veterans and civilians saluted the flag on their heads and hearts. Virginia Glick led the National Anthem, as the crowd joined in on the last verse. The crowd was led in an invocation, and the band started up again to render "Fantasy on Yankee Doodle." Vice Mayor of Turlock Forrest White spoke on behalf of the city, explaining that, "Patriotism and love of country have always been strong in Turlock."
Following White, a representative from the Commission of the American Legion Rex Ish Post 88 Gunner Bruce, spoke.
"This has been kind of a rough year for our post, a lot of our comrades and sisters have been called by the Supreme Commander to the resting place,” Bruce said. “So we mourn their loss. All of you that are here today, we thank you for coming, we thank you for sharing the benefits of all the veterans that came before you and those of you that have served we all appreciate your service. And for those of you who are still mourning, please take refuge that God is with you."
As he followed Bruce to introduce the next speaker, Seward joked with fellow vets and Turlockers during the sunny morning.
"I'd be remiss if I didn't inject a little bit of humor during this solemn occasion, but if you are attending the Stanislaus County Fair this year, just remember you have a choice when it comes to hamburgers and cold beer [between] the VFW and the American Legion but our beer's colder!"
When the burst of laughter subsided, Seward introduced Darren McDaniels, standing in for Rep. Jeff Denham. (R-Turlock) to represent California's 10th Congressional District. Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen then spoke of the importance of Americans' acknowledgement of the Gold Star, as she told about a recent experience in Manteca.
"Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with many Gold Star Families… from all over the state,” Olsen said. “It was an incredibly moving and amazing experience as it brought to light what really Memorial Day is all about. As Americans, every single one of us should know what the Gold Star stands for… a sign of respect, a sign of mourning a sign of gratitude."
Olsen also highlighted the importance of freedom to those lost, suggesting that freedom should be viewed as more than just a concept.
"For them it was something that had to be fought for; something that had to be protected at all costs,” Olsen said. “Freedom is a highly valuable and targeted community; its threats are real."
Later in the service, there was also a presentation of the poppies ceremony, where service goers were encouraged to share the name and position of their lost loved one, in acknowledgement of the time served. A poppy flower was then laid on a memorial stone for each man or woman.
Seward then echoed Olsen's statements in describing what Memorial Day is about, although he was admittedly "preaching to the choir." Memorial Day, he said, "is not a day for sales, it's not a day for going to the lake – although this year try to find a lake to put your boat in." Instead, Seward explained, it is a day for remembering those who gave their lives for their country.