Memorial Day is a special challenge for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 2441, the American Legion Post No. 218, and the American Legion Auxiliary.
The groups make a special effort each year to honor the veterans buried in all Colusa County cemeteries, and to give special recognition to the 68 locals who were killed in action in American wars, including 12 who died on the battlefields of France in the fall of 1918 during World War I.
Another 50 Colusa County soldiers were killed in World War II; two died fighting in the Korean War; 11 were killed in Viet Nam; and two – Justin Casillas and Rueben “Boy” Lopez – were killed in Afghanistan.
And in cemeteries from Princeton to Arbuckle, American Flags marked the graves of all the veterans that served and are now buried in their hometowns.
Colusa County’s Memorial Day ceremonies kicked off with early Monday morning ceremonies in Colusa and Arbuckle, followed by larger ceremonies in Williams and Maxwell.
Traditionally a small gathering, the Memorial Day program at the Colusa Community Cemetery has increasingly sparked interest the past few years.
Last year, the Cemetery District along with the local veterans groups dedicated a new memorial to those killed in the line of duty. This year, they started a new tradition by honoring three veterans whose biographies were stationed at their gravesites.
Honorees this year were Civil War veterans William Kavanaugh Estill, a Colusa County supervisor who died in 1897, and Lt. Colonel Samuel Devore Wall, the highest-ranking military officer in the Colusa Cemetery. Wall, who died in 1872, was Colusa’s fourth mayor and elected Colusa County District Attorney.
Samuel Taylor was also honored. Taylor, a Colusa farmer, was a Mexican-American War veteran.
In Maxwell, two casket flags were added to the Avenue of Flags for veterans Ralph Zoller, who died in November, and Edman White, who died in January.
Zoller, a Korean War veteran, had been a member of the Princeton VFW Post before it gave up its charter. White served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam era.
“We share the lens of small town America, sending members of our communities in all walks of life to serve in our nation’s military forces,” said Chief Petty Officer April (Resch) Moreland, who gave the keynote address at the Maxwell Memorial Day service. “Those service members of our community, which we honor today, shared similar fundamental qualities: they possessed courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty, and integrity – all the qualities needed to serve a cause greater than oneself.”
Dawn Nissen, manager of the Williams cemetery, spoke of Malion Wallace, who fought in World War I.
Of the five most famous battles in the Great War, Wallace fought in three of them.
In the battle of Château-Thierry, in July of 1918, Wallace was one of 84 soldiers to survive from the original 250 in the battle of Saint-Mihiel, Nissen said.
Wallace also fought in the battle of Argonne Forest, where he was injured by a gunshot to the leg and walked on his injury seven miles for medical care.
Despite the grim circumstances, Wallace recovered and lived a long life in Williams. He was active in the VFW and the American Legion, and for decades made sure flags were place on graves of veterans in the very cemetery in which he now rests
“(Wallace’s) story is just the story of one veteran, and every veteran has a story,” Nissen said. “I’m sorry I cannot share them all. But we are here today to honor them all, and to thank each and every veteran for their service.”
Joseph Bowers, commander of Colusa VFW Post No. 2441, said at the Colusa ceremony that again and again, the nation’s service members answer the call to service.
“Our men and women have left knowing they may not return,” said Bowers. “They have gone because they knew that freedom isn’t free.”
Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
Memorial Day has been an official federal holiday since 1971 but actually has been a part of American tradition since the Civil War. Still to this day, the phrase “Never forget our fallen” is a powerful statement that is near and dear to Americans across the nation.
Many people attending the ceremonies throughout Colusa County were veterans or the family of veterans.
The Turner family was in attendance in Williams, paying respect to the patriarch, Jess D. Turner, a sergeant in the U.S. Army and veteran of the Korean War. His widow, Fay Turner, recited a heartfelt poem and laid a wreath in front of a plaque the VFW recently erected.
Once Wallace had passed away, the Turner family took over placing flags and it was reported that Memorial Day is a particularly difficult time for the family.
Richard Lau, a veteran and firefighter for Williams, was present to pay his respects and offer services as a member the VFW, and as a professional photographer. Lau served in Germany, Texas, and southern and northern California as a flight engineer.
In Maxwell, American Legion Auxiliary member Irene Felix, the wife of veteran Tony Felix, laid a wreath at the flagpole to remember unknown American soldiers buried in cemeteries across the globe.
Noting the turnout in Williams, Nissen said she would love to see three to four times as many people attend the ceremony, including young people.
In Maxwell, youth were present. The Maxwell school band performed “Our America” and other selections, and several families attended with their children.
At the Colusa Cemetery, Daniell Frampton presented a certificate of appreciation to Charlie Franklin, who cleaned the headstones of all veterans this year as his Colusa High School senior project.
At each of the ceremonies, a firing squad saluted the fallen with a three-shot volley, followed by the playing of “Taps.” ■