Cemetery district hosts Memorial Day service

Photos and story by Catherine Stachowiak 

The Kern River Valley Public Cemetery District hosted a Memorial Day ceremony, Monday, May 27. District Manager and organizer of the event, Randy Kyt was Master of Ceremonies, as has been an annual tradition residents say they have come to expect and appreciate. 

Spencer Hanson read a letter from Senator Shannon Grove, which said, “For us it is an honor and a privilege to take a moment of our time on this day to reflect upon the souls who fought bravely for our country.”

Local pastor Neal Preston opened the ceremony in prayer.  And Kern River Chorus sang the National Anthem and the song, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

Pastor Preston gave a Memorial Day message. He said. “Holding traditions like this is very important.”

Memorial Day was founded in 1868, as Decoration Day, which was often held at cemeteries, with food, drink and celebration of life and freedom. In 1971 the day was declared a national holiday called Memorial Day.  

Preston said, “Within just this country you see division taking place constantly. But Jesus is the unifier. He’s the one who sacrificed, crossed cultures, created bridges.” 

In his message Pastor Preston noted that in the Gospel of John chapter 15, Jesus said to His followers, “Greater Love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.” Preston said, “And He (Jesus) says, you are my friends if you do what I command. And then His command says, ‘Love one another just as I have loved you.’   How did He love us? He loved us through sacrificing Himself.  He laid down His life. And so on Memorial Day we honor those who have laid down their lives for our freedom here in this country.”

Pastor Preston also said, “Memorial Day is about those who have fallen to give us freedom and paid the ultimate sacrifice just like Jesus Christ our Savior.”

Orion Sanders, founder of Sarge’s Wreaths 4 Vets, spoke on behalf of Wreaths Across America saying, “As we remember and celebrate the nearly 900 that are fallen in the Kern River Valley Cemetery, this Memorial Day I’d like to recognize another group of heroes, they’re called the Gold Star Family.”  

Sanders explained that the Gold Star Family is one who has experienced the loss of a loved one in service to their country. Sanders said, “The strength of our nation is our military service men and women. And their strength is their families. The nation recognizes that no one has given more for the nation than the families of the fallen. That is why we must remember our fallen veterans and their Gold Star Families.”

District manager, Randy Kyt, mentioned the need for donations to Sarge’s Wreaths 4 Vets to cover the gravestones of veterans in Kern Valley with wreaths at Christmas. 

Kern River Chorus then sang the song, “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

US Army Sergeant Jason Grove who is also commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7665 spoke saying, “President Truman told us that our that debt to the heroic men and valiant women in service the of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude.”

His speech was followed by the Presentation of the Wreath and a Gun Salute and Taps, which the Kern River Valley Veterans Honor Guard conducted.

Several members of the community came up to speak toward the end of the service. Raymond Garcia, member one of the original families of the valley, encouraged those attending the event to love one another as Jesus taught. He said, “I respect the memories of those who have gone to war for us so that we can have the freedom that we have today.”