All around Colusa County, veteran organizations, cemetery districts, and residents paid tribute to fallen troops on Monday in ways that were impossible last year – when COVID-19 restrictions were still observed in most places.
Formal ceremonies returned to Colusa and Williams on Memorial Day. Short ceremonies were held at Holy Cross Cemetery, Arbuckle, and Maxwell.
American Flags dotted the gravestones by the hundreds of those who served, although the annual observance honors those who gave their all as payment for the cost of everyone’s freedom.
In Colusa, Cemetery Manager Daniell Hendricks and Joe Bowers, past commander of VFW Post No. 2441 offered condolences to the families of soldiers in uniform who gave their lives while serving in the nation’s military.
“Today, we honor their sacrifice, their willingness to serve, and to pay the ultimate price to keep us safe,” Bowers said. “Again and again, our soldiers, sailors, and airmen have answered the call to service: World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Our men and women left knowing they may not return.”
Williams Cemetery Manager Dawn Nissen paid tribute to Williams women who served in the military, including Helen Nissen, who reached the rank of Master Sergeant while serving in World War II at the Marine Base in Santa Barbara, overseeing supply logistics.
In 1943, Helen Strawn Humble enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps., and served at Patterson Airfield, in Ohio, where top secret aircraft were developed and tested.
“On one occasion, a fully fueled cargo plane crashed into the hangar upon takeoff,” Nissen said.
The plane erupted into flames, killing the crew and several people in the hangar. Ellen, seeing the flames and concerned her hair may catch on fire, grabbed some folders off the Colonel’s desk to hold over her head as she ran out. She received a commendation for bravely saving those top-secret documents. She always said, in reality, she received the commendation for saving her hair.”
Williams women who served also include Margaret Morrow, who served in the US Army in World War II; Amanda Sharpe, Army Special Forces, who served 1990-1993 in Desert Storm, and Amanda Plachek, who joined the Army in 2009, and serves as a Chinook pilot in the Alaska Army National Guard.
Maxwell’s usually large ceremony remained scaled back this year, with Pastor Malcolm White giving an invocation.
At each of the ceremonies, the Colusa VFW and Maxwell American Legion Post No. 218 served as the Color Guard.
The ceremonies were marked by a three-shot volley of gunfire and playing of “Taps.” §