Memorial Day, a time to remember

Joaquin Ojeda talks about his late son Ramon with his wife Maria at his side.
Joaquin Ojeda talks about his late son Ramon with his wife Maria at his side.

By Maureen Robertson

Joaquin Ojeda, father of Army Specialist Ramon C. Ojeda, spoke from his heart during the Memorial Day Ceremony at Nuevo Memory Gardens cemetery on Monday morning.

Ramon Ojeda of Ramona was 22 years old when he was killed south of Amarah, Iraq, on May 1, 2004. He was married with one child.

This year on May 1, Osama bin Laden, hunted as the leader of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks on U.S. soil, was killed  by U.S. forces in Pakistan.

“That was something that really healed my heart, that he was killed on my son’s anniversary,” said Joaquin Ojeda. “That was justice.”

Ramona Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3783 and its Ladies and Men’s auxiliaries conduct Memorial Day ceremonies each year. The 10 a.m. ceremony at the cemetery was followed by an event at the World War II memorial at Ninth and G street, a third ceremony at noon at the Vietnam Memorial at Schwaesdall Winery off state Route 67 and Rancho de Oro Drive, and then a barbecue picnic at the VFW post.

As a Gold Star mother of a serviceman killed in action, Maria Ojeda accepted a bouquet of flowers from James Isaac, Ramona resident who served in the Royal Canadian Navy.

Prior to the presentation, VFW member and master of ceremonies John “Pontiac” Hine said, “There are times when mere words seem far from adequate. This is such an occasion because we are gathered to recall persons who have made the supreme sacrifice and to honor their parents.”

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Congressman Duncan D. Hunter, VFW Post Commander Dale Smith, Ladies Auxiliary President Rose Busang, Post Chaplain Doug Scholl and Canadian veteran James Isaac stand as the Ramona High NJROTC Color Guard presents colors.

Congressman Duncan D. Hunter, guest speaker at the ceremony, presented the Ojedas with a copy of “Victory in Iraq: How America Won,” a book by his father, former Congressman Duncan L. Hunter.

“This little town supports us, and we’re here to support you,” said Joaquin Ojeda, a Santa Ysabel resident.

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Michael Harrison and son stand as the bugler plays “Taps.”

An estimated 250 to 300 people attended the ceremony at the cemetery, where the Ramona High School Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Color Guard presented the colors, Ramona High student Grace Wooley sang the national anthem, Ladies Auxiliary President Rose Busang and Post Chaplin Doug Scholl placed a wreath at a veteran’s gravesite, and all stood as bugler ET1 Harold Krohne of Ramona played “Taps.”

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Ceremony attendees stand for the National Anthem.

“Our little town of Ramona has contributed greatly,” said Hine. “Our town with our dead has supported five different wars. Currently there are 24 killed in action servicemembers from Ramona...It is imperative that we as a nation, and as individuals, remember the heroes of the past and support those who serve today.”

The way people pay tribute varies, Hine said. “Whether done individually or collectively, it is the thought that counts. Remember them today — their commitment, patriotism and sacrifice.”

“What do we owe them?” Hunter asked. “...Remembrance, learn about them” and then “pass it on, because we cannot lose this. You gotta pass it on.”

“Nobody’s gone to war for other people more than we have,” said Hunter, the first Marine combat veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan elected to Congress.

The United States also helps those it fights, he said. “We are an exceptional nation with exceptional people.”

He encouraged those at the ceremony to “think about the men who died, the ones who won’t be drinking beer today, the guys that didn’t ever have a chance to go to the beach today.”

Toward the end of the ceremony, Hine asked each veteran to identify himself or herself, giving branch of service, boot camp location, and month and year of entry.

“The newest and oldest will get a prize,” he said.

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Chuck Apgar is honored as the oldest veteran at the ceremony.

Sixty-two former and current members of the service followed Hine’s orders. Chuck Apgar, who entered U.S. Marine Corps boot camp in April 1943 was the oldest, and Joshua Mills, who entered U.S. Marine Corps in 2010, was the most recent. Both Ramona men received a certificate for a complimentary dinner at the VFW post.

Hine thanked the estimated 20 members of Ramona Boy Scout Troop 768 who assisted with the ceremony.

He concluded with, “VFW 3783 is the biggest little post in San Diego County where every day is a holiday, every meeting is a family reunion and every meal is a feast.”

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in the nation’s service.

   
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