Vietnam’s 50th year commemorated at cemetery

By Debbie Teofilo
Special to the Sun

Photo by Debbie Teofilo / Special to the Sun:
Heaven and Vanessa Swallow (left to right) view veteran headstones at the Kern River Valley Memorial Day service on May 28. Speakers at the ceremony stressed the need to teach our youth about patriotism and commitment to freedom.

Presentations given at the Memorial Day service on May 28 at the Kern River Valley Cemetery were festive in color and song, solemn in tone, and informative about the many ways veterans and their families can be honored throughout the entire year.

Memorial Day weekend represents the start of the summer vacation season for most Americans, but to the over 100 attendees on Monday and every other veteran-related family in the country, May is a reminder to recognize veterans all year long. Armed Forces Day in early May recognizes all currently serving military veterans, the last Monday in May is Memorial Day to remember all those who died in service to their country, and Veterans Day in November is to celebrate the service of all U.S. veterans.

Speakers at the Memorial Day service expressed gratitude to the fallen for protecting our freedoms, and to their families who had to live with the loss of their loved ones. The sacrifices of families were particularly apparent in many of the speeches, with VFW Auxiliary President Jeanne Olson commenting on the pain endured by Gold Star mothers who lost children in service of the U.S. Armed Forces; some lost more than one.

State Senator Jean Fuller commented on the large number of veteran families in our senatorial district which has the largest number of military installations within its boundaries than any other district in California. Pride in the military and gratitude for its veterans and their legacy is strong here. In recognition of this, Congressman Kevin McCarthy provided an American flag for the ceremony which had been flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of Kern River Valley veterans.

But as local guest speaker Jeanette Rogers Erickson said, “Our job isn’t done. It’s our responsibility to teach our young people and instill in their hearts the patriotism and commitment to sacrifice that our veterans gave their lives for.” Past VFW Commander Glen Elliott asked that we all work to provide returning veterans with health care, employment, education, and housing “to help those who have sacrificed so much and have asked nothing in return.”

The other continuing effort to keep veterans in our minds and hearts is the recent U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemoration program. The local Kawaiisu Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution are partners with the DOD in promoting this program, and at the Memorial Day service unfurled the new Vietnam War Commemoration Flag. From now until the 50th anniversary celebration of the war’s end in 2025, local organizations across the country will be working to personally thank and honor every Vietnam veteran and their family for their service and sacrifice.

Local resident Orion Sanders announced that a veteran recognition program associated with Wreaths Across America is being started in the Kern River Valley. On December 15, 2018, Sarge’s Wreaths 4 Vets will place Christmas wreaths on the 1,000 veteran headstones at the Kern River Valley Cemetery as another way to keep the memory of our veterans alive.

The Kern Valley Chorus of Sweet Adelines ended the program by singing God Bless America and the Kern Valley Sheriff’s Activities League retired the colors, leaving attendees with patriotic images they can share with the young people in their lives.

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