World War II and Vietnam veteran Henry Stuehmeyer gathers with other veterans for a ceremony designating the city of Petaluma as a Purple Heart City on Friday, May 23, 2014. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Purple Heart veterans saluted in pre-Memorial Day ceremony in Petaluma

The sound of taps played on a bugle still brings tears to the eyes of many veterans.

Friday in Petaluma, veterans from every American war going back to World War II stood at attention — some with eyes welling up — as the simple, mournful tune hung in the air.

Several dozen people visited Walnut Park on Friday for a pre-Memorial Day ceremony to recognize Petaluma's recent designation as a Purple Heart City and to thank veterans for their service to the country.

Afterward, nearly 40 veterans, including men and women who served during World War II and in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, gathered for a group photo to mark Petaluma's support for veterans.

"We treasure your sacrifice," said organizer Joe Noriel, who runs in Petaluma.

"We live in freedom because of your efforts, and it will not be forgotten," he told veterans dressed in camouflage fatigues, dress whites and blues, and those wearing their Veterans of Foreign Wars caps.

Noriel helped organize the drive to have Petaluma recognized as a Purple Heart City, a program of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, which honors veterans injured during their service.

Purple signs have been erected along some Petaluma streets as a reminder.

"It's a way for communities to recognize all veterans who serve our country," said John Logan with the Military Order of the Purple Heart. About 400 cities in the United States have been given the designation, including Windsor, Healdsburg and Santa Rosa. Sonoma County has received a similar designation.

Korean war vet Paul A. Lewis of Petaluma shared memories of all three Petalumans killed in action there: Army Pvts. Robert A. Baur and Joseph R. Mendonca, who both died in 1951, and Marine Pvt. George Joseph Poe, who died in 1953.

All three were Petaluma High School graduates.

"I knew their families and I vowed that their sacrifice in this war, known as 'the forgotten war,' would be remembered, and that they will not fade away in a lonesome cemetery," Lewis said.

Lewis is part of an effort to build a Korean War memorial in Walnut Park, which is also home to the newly reinstalled Vietnam veterans memorial.

The granite monument has been designed, he said, and will be 10 feet high, with a kneeling soldier and the names of Baur, Mendonca and Poe. A fundraising website will be up in August.

The monument will immortalize them "for future generations to see, ask and learn about," Lewis said. "Petaluma does not turn its back on its military veterans."

Mayor David Glass accepted a flag from the Military Order of the Purple Heart and said it will fly often over Petaluma during events, including a fundraiser May 31 at the Lucchesi Community Center to support paralyzed veterans.

(You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or

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