Over the course of the country’s more than 240-year history, roughly 1.3 million Americans have died as casualties of war.
Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday of May, offers a chance to reflect on those who died defending this country.
On May 27 in Hollister, hundreds paid tribute to fallen soldiers during a ceremony hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9242 and American Legion Post 69 in front of the Veterans Memorial Building.
Memorial Day observance began after the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. But the day, which is unofficially designated as the beginning of summer, has become overshadowed by sales, barbecues and other get-togethers that miss the true purpose of Memorial Day, said Assemblymember Robert Rivas, who was a guest speaker at the ceremony.
“This is a day to remember incredible sacrifice and authentic heroism,” said Rivas, a Democrat whose 30th District includes San Benito County. “Today we remember the men and women who died for us, who sacrificed absolutely everything.”
The ceremony included a 21-gun salute by the VFW Post 9242 Honor Guard. In addition, six locals currently serving in the military received banners, which they hung on light poles surrounding the Veterans Memorial Building’s plaza: Eric Mitchell (Navy), Nathen A. Dutra (Navy), Christopher Leist (Marines), Giovani Gastello Jr. (Army), Cheyenne Kistner (Navy) and Able A. Arellano (Army).
Before the ceremony, the VFW Honor Guard visited the IOOF and Calvary cemeteries to pay homage to the veterans buried there.
Bernie Ramirez, captain of the Honor Guard, said its members all knew soldiers who were killed in action, “We are here to honor our fallen heroes,” he added.
Mel Angel of the Honor Guard added that the ceremony is also a way to recognize the families of the fallen soldiers and their sacrifices.
Dale Barnes, who served in Vietnam as a sergeant with the Marines, said he knew a number of people buried at Calvary Cemetery, “We come here not only to honor people we went to school with, but also our fathers.”