Memorial Day: Ceremonies honor those who gave their all

Colusa County Veterans and the Colusa Cemetery District unveiled a new stone monument at the Colusa Community Cemetery on Monday, which commemorates those who have served in the armed forces. Emblazoned on the large stone, which sits below the flagpoles at the cemetery, is an excerpt from poem that was given to Dennis Sanders by his brother in law: Bivouac of the Dead.

“The sunshine of their native sky, smiles sadly on them here and kindred eyes and hearts watch by the heroes sepulcher. Nor shall your glory be forgot, while fame her record keeps or honor points the hallowed spot, where valor proudly sleeps. Yon marble minstrel’s voiceless stone in deathless song shall tell, when many a vanished age hath flown, the story how ye fell,” the monument reads, in part.

The original poem was penned by Theodore O’Hara, written in memory of the Kentucky troops killed in the Mexican War in 1847. Portions of the poem are also inscribed on placards throughout Arlington National Cemetery. Sanders said they’re also inscribed on a plaque at the Omaha National Cemetery in Nebraska.

“It just really hit my heart when I first read it,” Sanders said. “I’ve been trying to get it at one of these cemeteries for five or six years. (Colusa Cemetery District Office Manager Daniell Frampton) just grabbed it and ran.”

Bill Tanner oversaw the ceremony at the Colusa Cemetery and the Catholic Cemetery. The opening prayer was delivered by George Sandrigde, and Mini Miss Colusa County Alexis Avera sang the National Anthem. Colusa City Councilman Tom Reische was the guest speaker at both ceremonies.

“Today we come together in solemn pride to recognize the heroism of those who served our country… We recognize those who died, so that we may live in freedom,” Reische said.
As always, Ron Simmons played taps to bring the ceremonies to a somber close.

Last week, Colusa County Cub Scouts set out hundreds of flags on the graves of the veterans buried at the Colusa Cemetery – a first for the scouts.

“They came out and put flags up for me on Thursday – over 400,” said Frampton. “Nice kids – it was awesome to have them out here helping.”

The Colusa Cemetery wasn’t the only one in the county to have a new memorial installed for veterans this year.

Just inside the gates of the Williams Cemetery stands a new monument dedicated to the men and women that served or are serving in all branches of the armed services.

Many of those who attended the Memorial Day service on Monday saw it for the first time.

“Memorial Day is a time for Americans to reconnect with their history – and their core values – by honoring those who gave their lives for the ideals we cherish,” said Dawn Nissen, Williams Cemetery office manager, who hosted the ceremony. “The new memorial honors all our veterans, both local and across the nation. The artwork on the plaque represents many phases of our country’s military history. The Army, the navy, the marines, the air force and the coastguard have all played significant roles in defending our country and the freedoms of every single American.”

The front of the new monument has the emblems of all five military branches. The back includes carved images of a World War I soldier fighting in the trenches of France; a biplane, a paratrooper, a Navy destroyer, the Marines raising the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima, military tanks, a Chinook helicopter, a stealth fighter, and the Fallen Soldier Battle Field Cross. The Battle Field Cross combines a helmet, rifle, and boots to symbolize the honor, service and sacrifice of soldiers killed in battle.

The monument was funded from proceeds from the annual veterans picnic, hosted by the Colusa County veterans organizations, Nissen said.

In Maxwell, the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 218 hosted the largest of Colusa County’s five Memorial Day services.

David Resch read the poem “In Flanders Field,” a war poem written during the World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, who was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier who died in the Second Battle of Ypres.

“Almost all Memorial Day ceremonies include this poem,” Resch said.

Resch said Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was born out of the Civil War as a desire to honor those “who gave their all.”

Since 1868, May 30 (later changed to the last Monday in May) has been dedicated as a day to place flowers on the graves of the fallen to remember their sacrifice to the nation.

“That means this is the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day,” Resch said.

Maxwell American Legion Post No. 218 and Colusa VFW Post No. 2441 participated in the ceremonies, serving as the Honor Guard and firing squad.

The Maxwell High School band, conducted by Vicki Wilson, performed at the Maxwell Cemetery.

The Williams High School band, conducted by Eric Roberts, performed at the ceremony held in Williams.

Ron Simmons performed “Taps” in Williams. Christian Cano, in Maxwell.

The ceremonies held throughout the county not only served to remember the service and sacrifice of those killed in defense of this great nation, but to honor all who have served to keep America safe and free, organizers said.

The Maxwell Avenue of Flags now has 150 casket flags, and 253 small flags were placed on the graves of all veterans, said Maria Carrancho, a member of the American Legion Auxiliary.

The Auxiliary added four new Avenue flags this year for Tony Mark, Christopher Buchanan, Robert Hadley, and John Jacobson.

“The greatest contribution to our country is the veterans who offer their all to serve and defend our nation,” Carrancho said. n