A standing room only crowd estimated at more than 200 people turned out to honor the nation’s fallen soldiers at Pioneer Cemetery today, Memorial Day, at a service put on by Sierra Madre’s Harry L. Embree VFW Post 3208.
Commander Dave Loera presided over the ceremony, which began with the posting of the colors by members of the VFW, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.. Rev. Patrick Brennan of Mater Dolorosa gave the invocation, and Patrick and Mary Cronin led the crowd in singing the National Anthem, America the Beautiful and God Bless America.
Commander Loera introduced Mayor John Buchanan, who spoke briefly about Memorial Day, thanking the veterans and applauding the VFW members for the spirit in which they present the service on an annual basis. He asked the crowd to remember that “this day is their special day, but so too, is tomorrow.”
Buchanan then introduced keynote speaker Council Member MaryAnn MacGillivray. Ms. MacGillivray spoke for just under twenty minutes, reciting statistics on the number of casualties and deceased in various wars, and quoting presidents, statesmen, historians and military figures. She reminded the audience that Sierra Madrean Howard Miller, who is buried in Pioneer Cemetery, and whose widow, Tommie Anne still lives in town, was one of the men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima. And she spoke of what America is, and that others strive to be like America.
“We’re a collective mix of greatness and greed, high tech and heartland. We are the country of Mickey Mouse and Micky Mantle, from John Smith to John Glenn and Atlas Booster, from Charles Lindbergh to Charlie Brown, from Moby Dick to Microsoft. We went from Kitty Hawk to Tranquility Base on the moon in less than seventy years. We’re blue grass and rock and roll, Marvel Comics and the Bill of Rights. In short, we are everything that everybody wants to be.”
She spoke of the recent passing of a 110-year old WWI veteran, the last remaining veteran from World War I. And she spoke of the need to keep the stories of our WWII veterans alive. She then introduced the VFW members that had served in WWII, allowing each to stand and be recognized, and they were recognized with a standing ovation and a long round of applause.
She introduced Staff Sergeant Ken Anhalt, who was a tail gunner on B-24 bombers. Petty Officer Gordon Caldwell, who served on the USS Saratoga, was next, followed by Staff Sergeant Art Contreras, who served in the Pacific Theater and was awarded the Purple Heart for his service. Michael Domenico, a US Army Engineer who served in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, as well as the Pacific Theater. She introduced Petty Officer Ted Evans, who served from 1945 to 1949 in the Philippines, Japan and China, and Petty Officer George Metzger, who served from 1943 to 1946, including Okinawa. “These gentlemen are our World War II heroes,” she concluded the introduction.
She closed by reciting the third verse to America the Beatiful, calling it a “fitting end to this day.” The words to that verse are:
O beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
Following the traditional laying of the wreaths by members of the VFW, Paul Puccinelli performed a flawless rendition of “Taps” on the bugle. The service was followed by a lunch of sandwiches, chips and beverages.
Click a photo below to enlarge it. Click here to view video of the entire service, start to finish.