Memorial Day was celebrated at three locations in Ramona on Monday to pay tribute to people who have lost their lives in service to their country.
Among present was Joaquin Ojeda of Santa Ysabel who said that he has closure now for the loss of his son, after the news of Osama bin Laden's death. He said Bin Laden was killed on the anniversary of his son Ramon Ojeda's death.
Monday's ceremony was also a time to honor those in attendance who served or are currently serving in the U.S. military.
An estimated 150 to 200 people turned out for the ceremony at Nuevo Memory Gardens where Congressman Duncan D. Hunter was the keynote speaker.
Hunter spoke about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, including his own experiences there while serving from 2002 to 2005 in the Marine Corps. Hunter was elected to the House of Representatives in 2009, taking over for his father, former Congressman Duncan L. Hunter.
“In the history of this world, no one has gone to war for other people more than we have,” the congressman said of U.S. involvement in foreign wars. “Going back to World War I, if it wasn’t for us, those other countries wouldn’t even have survived. The only reason we have not been attacked yet is because of the men and women who came before us.”
Hunter spoke of the importance of passing along to younger generations the information about loved ones who died in service and of the battles they fought. He went on to say, “We are an exceptional nation with exceptional people.”
Congressman Hunter assisted Canadian veteran James Isaac with honoring the Gold Star Mothers — those who lost a son, daughter or grandchild in combat. They were presented with a bouquet of flowers and a book written by Duncan L. Hunter, “Victory in Iraq.”
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post Chaplain Doug Scholl and Ladies Auxiliary President Rose Busang laid a wreath on a grave of a veteran.
People who have served in the military, past or present, were asked to stand and tell their branch of service. The oldest and youngest who attended boot camp were honored: Chuck Apgar for 1943 and Joshua Mills for 2010. They are both residents of Ramona.
Following the ceremony at the cemetery, a smaller group gathered at the World War II Memorial, located near Ramona Unified School District Administration Center, by the baseball field. The seven names of Ramona men are listed on the plaque. John Hine, representing the VFW, gave each person in attendance an opportunity to mention family members who served during World War II.
The final ceremony was at the Vietnam Memorial at Schwaesdall Winery, west of town on Highway 67. A tattered American flag was replaced, and the new one was flown at half staff in memory of the seven men listed there. A military identification “dog tag” bearing each man’s name was placed on the memorial monument. At the conclusion of the short ceremony, Gary Harper, of Ramona, fired his cannon.
The day’s events concluded with a picnic at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post.
The three ceremonies were under the direction of Ramona’s VFW Post No. 3783 and its Ladies and Men’s Auxiliary. Boy Scout Troop No. 768 from Ramona assisted. The Ramona High School Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp presented the flag at Nuevo Memory Gardens. Grace Woolley, a junior at Ramona High School, sang the National Anthem.
Memorial Day dates back to the post Civil War period. It was originally called Decoration Day and was established to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the War. The official date of Memorial Day is May 30; however, it is seldom celebrated on that day as it was this year.
In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, moving four holidays from their traditional dates to a particular Monday near the date. For Memorial Day, it became the fourth Monday in May. The federal law went into effect in 1971.