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Fallen soldiers remembered in Memorial Day ceremonies throughout Lodi

Lodi News-Sentinel - 5/29/2018

May 29--Service and sacrifice were the topics of the speech Chaplain Chad Donley, a U.S. Army veteran, gave during the Memorial Day program held at Cherokee Memorial Park and Funeral Home on Monday morning.

"All jobs and all branches have a service that they do, and regardless of whether you are on the front line with the gun or you are in the backline with support, you served when you were a member of our military," Donley said.

It's important for everyone to recognize the sacrifices made by soldiers, especially those who gave their lives, he said. It's equally important to recognize what they sacrified for.

"It's the soldier, not the politician, who has given us freedom of speech," Donley said. "It's the soldier, not the reporter, who gives us the freedom of press. It was the soldier, not the preacher, who gives us the freedom of religion."

Many people see Memorial Day as a time to enjoy cookouts, department store sales and other festivities. Donley pointed out the true meaning of the holiday, and acknowledged that those in attendance understood the sacrifices that the country's fallen servicemen had made for them.

"Your presence here this morning ... shows that you understand the only reason we have those freedoms is because of the people that paid the ultimate price that we might have those freedoms," Donley said. "The silent testimony of 7,000-plus veterans who are buried on these very grounds where we stand today pays tribute to the fact that they were willing to pay the ultimate price for our freedoms."

Memorial Day events like those held at Cherokee and elsewhere on Monday are important because they give people the opportunity to express gratitude for those soldiers who paid the ultimate price, he said.

"To think that our loved ones who have died for us, that we are expressing gratitude for that right now, it makes their sacrifice meaningful. There is a reasoning behind it," Donley said.

It sets aside a time for people to remember those who have already sacrificed, he added.

"It's the responsibility of we who remain to remember those who have fallen. That is our solemn duty," he said.

During the ceremony, the U.S. Marine Corps Transportation Service Co. CLB 23 color guard presented the colors, and the Stockton Portsmen Chorus performed the national anthem and several other selections throughout the program. Boy Scout Troop199 led those in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Several local veterans' organizations presented wreaths as part of the ceremony, including Lodi American Legion Post 22, Disabled American Veterans, Gold Star Mothers, Stockton Marine Corps Club and the Delta Prisoners of War.

Following the wreath presentation, there was a three-gun salute. Richard Hanson of Cherokee Memorial played "Taps."

After the salute, the Stockton Portsmen Chorus sung "God Bless America" as doves were released. There was also a fly-over called the Missing Man Formation, which dates back to World War I. The aerial salute honors dead or missing soldiers.

Danny Stanley, director of sales at Cherokee Memorial, was pleased with the ceremony.

"Everything went very well," he said.

While the timing was a little off for the Missing Man Formation, everything else went very well, he said.

"We feel that we blessed people, and that was our goal -- along with remembering the men and women who gave their all," Stanley said.

About 1,000 people attended the ceremony, he estimated.

Connie Odea was one of them.

Odea prides herself on her patriotism, sharing that her father, 92, is a World War II veteran and her son was also in the service.

"My heart goes out to my community and to all of the people who served," she said. "I want to support all of our servicemen and thank them for everything, so coming out here gives me a chance to do that. I've been coming out there for many years."

Gary Holm said it was important to him to honor the sacrifices made by the country's fallen servicemen.

"The cost of freedom isn't free," he said. "We have to honor those who have fought for our freedoms, and it's an important thing to remember. It's a great thing that we have this day to honor them and remember them."

Several families laid blankets down and sat at their loved ones' graves.

Among them was Janet Rickerd, who was joined at her son's grave by Courtney Rickerd and family friend Mary Williams.

Rickerd lost her 22-year-old son to a car accident years ago, and believes it helped her to understand the pain fallen soldiers' mothers must endure. Now, she comes out year after year to spend time with her son and support those women.

"The first year I came out here and started walking on Memorial Day through all the plaques, and I'm reading all these young men were the same age as man my son," she said. "I'm sitting here as a mother who mourns her son, and I look at all these mothers who are mourning their sons who are the same age."

Had her son lost his life in war, she would have been even more hurt if people didn't honor his sacrifice, she said.

"That would be very hurtful to me. I never thought about that until I lost my son, and now I connect with these mothers out here," she said. "It really opened my eyes."

Cherokee Memorial wasn't the only cemetery remembering fallen soldiers on Monday. At Lodi Memorial Cemetery, Lodi American Legion Post 22 held their own ceremony.

"It turned out great. The weather was prefect," Legion member Ken Cramlich said.

He estimated that more than 200 people attended the ceremony.

Retired Major Gen. Ray Carpenter was the speaker, and Post 1st Vice Cmdr. Randy Bender gave a wreath presentation. The Post 22 Honor Guard presented the colors and "three volleys of musketry" as per the U.S. Congressional Directive. "Taps" followed.

"It's always an honor to remember these people that served our country and have passed away," Cramlich said.

The Lodi Elks Lodge hosted its annual free lunch.

"We had a hamburger feast, free to the public, starting at noon, and that was well attended," Exalted Ruler Glen Robinson said.

Following the lunch, the Elks held a memorial service at Woodbridge Masonic Cemetery.

"It was very energetic group. There were a lot of thank yous afterwards they appreciated it," Robinson said.

The Lodi Community Band played various selections throughout the service, which included a presentation of the colors, the National Anthem and a wreath-laying ceremony. Veterans' organizations in attendance included the WFD, American Legion and American Legion Women's Auxiliary. Carpenter was the keynote speaker for that event, as well.

"One of themes of his speech was that respect or thanks to our service people should not just be one day a year. Its should be every day of the year," Robinson said.


(c)2018 the Lodi News-Sentinel (Lodi, Calif.)

Visit the Lodi News-Sentinel (Lodi, Calif.) at www.lodinews.com

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