Colusa County’s Memorial Day ceremonies kicked off in Colusa on Monday morning, with two separate, small ceremonies at the Colusa Community and the Holy Cross Cemeteries, put on by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2441 and Maxwell American Legion Post 218.
While the gatherings at the two Colusa cemeteries were smaller than those in other parts of the county – each had about 15 attendees in addition to the 20 veterans who put the ceremonies on – they did draw a bigger crowd than last year.
Just prior to the 8 a.m. ceremony, a beaming Gene Beauchamp – member of VFW Post 2441 – ambled over to the crowd at the Colusa Community Cemetery and thanked them all for coming.
“This is a good turnout,” Beauchamp said before filing back in with his fellow veterans, standing abreast under an American flag at half-mast.
Among the attendees at the Colusa Community Cemetery ceremony were Ray and Donna Krause, whose fathers both served in the Armed Forces.
“My father was in the Navy, and Ray’s father was in the Navy during World War II,” Donna Krause said. “(Memorial Day) was very important in their lives, so it’s important to us, too.
Colusa VFW President Bill Tanner served as the master of ceremonies for the two Memorial Day events in Colusa, which included Mini-Miss Colusa County Karsyn Gwinnup’s rendition of the national anthem, an opening and closing prayer by Beauchamp, a salute to veterans and the families of veterans killed in the line of duty, and ‘Taps’ played by Ron Simmons, and a 21-gun salute.
Tanner spoke at length about the purpose of the Memorial Day ceremonies: honoring those who had died while serving in the country’s armed forces.
“Today we come together in solemn pride to recognize the heroism of those who served our country and didn’t make it home. Both in times of war and peace, our men and women in uniform have served with courage, commitment and devotion. Those who took the oath and served in combat know the tragedy of war: They understand that in war, no one escapes unwounded,” Tanner said. “We recognize those who died so we may live in freedom, and we reflect on the service and sacrifice of our servicemen and women now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their sacrifice is a continuance of a long and proud legacy. Their service should never be far from our thoughts and prayers.
“It is an honor to be a part of this. Our fallen soldiers ask very little of the country they serve, but we owe them so much. Today it is our turn to serve: It is our turn to pay our respects to all of our fallen heroes.”
According to Colusa resident Maryann Marvel, that is what the Memorial Day is all about.
“So many people think (Memorial Day Weekend) is about getting together with family and friends for a barbecue, or they go on a vacation. But what’s really important is that we’re supposed to remember and honor the people who served our country. As they say, the cost of freedom isn’t free,” Marvel said.
After the ceremony at the Holy Cross Cemetery, Colusa resident Nancy Loudon reflected on the sacrifices that members of the Armed Forces have made, and continue to make, for their country and fellow countrymen.
“It’s just hard to contemplate the generation after generation after generation that has to continue to fight for freedom… In the 21st Century, you’d think we’d be better at this,” Loudon said.
In his closing remarks, Beauchamp again thanked those who had laid down their lives in sacrifice to their country.
“May they rest in peace, and may the light perpetually shine upon them. May the good work of seeking justice for the oppressed, and peace for all mankind be rewarded with success, that their sacrifices shall not have been in vain. And may we never fail to remember the awful cost of freedom we enjoy,” Beauchamp said.
Maxwell & Williams
Free from his official duties of state, Gov. Jerry Brown and wife Anne Gust Brown sat quietly in the audience during the Memorial Day ceremony at the Williams Cemetery, after first visiting the grave of his grandmother, Ida Schuckman Brown, who is buried just up the path from the entrance.
The first family of California spent Memorial Day weekend at their ranch outside the city, but devoted Monday to solemn ceremony.
“I wanted to come out to honor my grandmother, but mainly to honor the veterans,” Brown said, after the ceremony.
Nancy Marshall, a member of the Williams Cemetery Board of Directors, lead the Memorial Day ceremony, which was fitting on a day that honors those who gave so much to their country.
Marshall’s father and father-in-law served in World War II. Her husband, former, Supervisor Mark Marshall, is a Vietnam veteran, and her son-in-law is a veteran of Desert Storm.
“Each one of these brave men have my respect,” Marshall said. “Each one – a heart of service.”
Dawn Nissen, Williams Cemetery office manager, paid tribute to two local World War II veterans: the late Lt. Donavon “Don” Killian and Robert Dutil, 92.
Killian was a B-24 navigator, who parachuted over the Italian Alps in the winter of 1944 after his plane was struck by enemy fire. He was captured by the Germans and held as a prisoner of war until war’s end in 1945.
Killian died on March 15, 2012, at the age of 87, and is buried in the Williams Cemetery. Dutil was a member of an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon, which on May 4, 1945, liberated Hitler’s hideout, the “Eagle’s Nest” in Berchtesgaden, just four days before Germany surrendered.
“I have shared the stories of Don and Bob, but every veteran has a story,” Nissen said. “Although I cannot share all of them, we can honor each and every veteran who answered the call and served our country.”
In Maxwell, the largest of Colusa County’s five Memorial Day services, John H. Tiernan, of member of both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, spoke of the true meaning of Memorial Day, not as a time to honor those who served, but a time intended to remember those who died while serving.
Among those killed in action are Rueben “Boy” Lopez of Williams.
At the Williams ceremony, Nissen read a letter written by Lopez to his family shortly before going into battle.
At the time of his death from a roadside bomb on Aug. 11, 2011, Lopez had written he was at peace going to war because he had the courage, strength and presence of God in his heart.
“Do not cry or be sad for me, but celebrate with me,” Nissen quoted from Lopez’s letter. “We die to live, lot live then die. Life on earth is not the end, but only a journey.”
In Maxwell, those remembered included William “Buddy” Denman, who was killed in Vietnam; William Wells, Robert Watt, Kenneth Pence and William Gibson, in World War II, and Vernon Jewel Danley, in World War I.
Quoting Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a Civil War veteran, Tiernan says to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up… “It celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly.”
The Maxwell American Legion Auxiliary conducts the Memorial Day ceremony at the Maxwell Cemetery, with participation of American Legion Post No. 218, VFW Post No. 2441, and the Maxwell High School band, conducted by Vicki Wilson.
The ceremony not only serves 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, the Auxiliary said.
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.
About 50 Arbuckle residents attended the first Memorial Day ceremony at KIA Memorial Park in Arbuckle where John Lauppe officiated the ceremony.
Lauppe spoke about the 1.5 million men and women who’ve lost their lives due to wars and conflicts; and honored those locally.
“I found a list with all those killed in action,” said Lauppe. “The numbers are quite impressive.”
Lauppe went on to list the number of Americans killed during each war.
“The Revolutionary War, 4,435; The War of 1812, 2,260; Indian Wars about 1,000; the Mexican War, 13,283; the Civil War, which was all Americans fighting each other, 489,332; the Spanish American War, 3,446; WWI, 116,516, WWII, 405,399, the Korean War, 54,246; Vietnam War, 58,220, and the Persian Gulf War, 1,565; and lastly the global war, which is ongoing, 6,852,” said Lauppe. “That is a lot of people killed in Wars.”
Arbuckle remembered those who were killed in action.
“On this wall we have the names of those who lived in Arbuckle and were killed during war,” said Lauppe.
The KIA Memorial Wall was dedicated in 2002 to those who gave their lives fighting for freedom. The names on the wall include (WWI) Henry Traynham, Jasper Estes, Walter Brostrom; (World War II) Yvon Bailey, Buster Baze, James Byers, Theodore Simpson, Lawrence Briscoe, Clarence Harris, George Blanchard, Carl Confer, James Lindsay, Albert Eibe, Raymond Hansen, John C. Friel, and Fred Meischke; (Korean War) James Bass; (Vietnam War) David Madden; and (War on Terrorism) Justin Casillas.
Arbuckle community member George Green gave a prayer. The Maxwell American Legion Post 218 provided a seven gun salute. Taps was performed by Briden Dafoe, and the National Anthem was sung by Jocelyn Gonzalez.
“This was our first year hosting a Memorial Day event in town,” said Lauppe. “We had a great turn out.”■