With military anthems and rifle volleys, those who served and those who died were honored Monday during Memorial Day services in Santa Rosa.
An estimated 1,000 people came to Santa Rosa Memorial Park to remember those who were killed in military service. But the audience also cheered for the veterans who stood as the Redwood Chordsmen sang the theme songs for each branch of the military.
This year's annual observances featured not only 1,000 American flags lining the expansive green lawns, but also the mobile Global War on Terror Wall of Remembrance. The wall, similar to the Vietnam memorial wall, includes nearly 11,000 names of civilians, first responders and military personnel killed in 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan and other events during the last three decades.
More than 400 Sonoma County residents have been killed in action since the Philippine-American War of 1899, their names inscribed on a memorial at Santa Rosa City Hall. Supervisor Shirlee Zane, one of Monday's speakers, said the Memorial Day observance is "important and it's sacred and it's somber."
Monday's keynote speaker was Dennis Viglienzone, whose son, Army Pfc. Caesar S. Viglienzone of Santa Rosa, died in Iraq in 2006.
Viglienzone, a retired Naval officer and public school teacher, said we should know the origin of those young men and women who gave their lives for their country.
"They came from our families, our neighborhoods and our schools," he said.
For family members of the fallen warriors, Viglienzone said, "Memorial Day is very personal and it's every day."
Several speakers urged help for both family members and for veterans returning from war zones.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, urged the country not to play politics while trying to address "the mess unfolding" at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He was referring to allegations that Veterans Affairs employees have falsified records to cover up long waits at VA medical facilities.
"It's unacceptable, it's deplorable and it must be fixed," said Thompson, who was wounded as an Army staff sergeant during the Vietnam War.
The congressman later said he simply was calling for officials to learn and fix any problems that exist. He said he wasn't willing to defend the status quo, "nor can I say you can fire one guy and that's going to solve the problem" — a reference to those calling on Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki to resign.
Monday's gathering, sponsored by the American Legion and the Marine Corps League, included remembrances of two newly deceased veterans who had long been active in the community.
Two World War II-era P-51 Mustang fighter planes from the Pacific Coast Air Museum made two passes over the ceremony in tribute to Hattie Stone, a retired teacher and World War II veteran with the U.S. Navy. Stone, a member and benefactor of the air museum, died in December at the age of 95.
As well Monday, an American flag was ceremoniously folded and placed atop the black granite bench that veterans had installed last year to honor the 10 county service members who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Monday's flag was placed there in honor of Jesse Love, a Pearl Harbor survivor and chaplain for several veterans groups. Love, a retired hospital head housekeeper, died in September at the age of 91.
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