Community pays tribute at VFW Memorial Day Ceremony

U.S. Air Force veteran Bobby Sheppard and U.S. Navy veteran Tony Dunkailo stand at attention during the national anthem. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson
U.S. Air Force veteran Bobby Sheppard and U.S. Navy veteran Tony Dunkailo stand at attention during the national anthem. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

By Maureen Robertson

Red, white and blue were the dominant colors as an estimated 250 to 300 people paid tribute to Ramona’s fallen

servicemen and women during Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3783’s Memorial Day Ceremony at Nuevo Memory Gardens cemetery this morning.

U.S. flags stood at 584 gravesites in the cemetery, marking those who served their country, Master of Ceremonies Doug Scholl, the post’s junior vice commander, told the crowd. Of Ramonans who served in combat, 24 were killed in action, he said.

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KFMB radio talk show host Mike Slater, guest speaker at Ramona’s Memorial Day ceremony at Nuevo Memory Gardens. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

“Our little town of Ramona has contributed greatly,” said Scholl. “The VFW will not forget the noble sacrifices of those lost in current or past wars. They will never be forgotten.”

Boy Scouts from Troop 768 welcomed and assisted attendees, and Ramona High’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps provided the color guard.

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Master of Ceremonies Doug Scholl salutes as Grace Woolley sings the national anthem. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

Guest speaker KFMB radio talk show host Mike Slater spoke of Navy SEAL Aaron Carson Vaughn, killed Aug. 6, 2011, in Afghanistan when the helicopter he and 29 other Navy SEALS boarded to provide backup for Army Rangers was shot down.

“The greatest honor in my life was being asked to speak at Aaron’s memorial service,” he said. “I’ll never forget it.”

The service was in a Tennessee community much like Ramona, in a town Slater used to live.

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Members of VFW Post 3783 Rifle Squad stand at attention. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

“The stands in Aaron’s high school gym were packed, mostly with people who never met him but loved him just the same,” Slater said.

As he talked of Vaughn’s family — his grandmother, parents, wife, and two young children — Slater said, “This family inspired people across the country. They touched the hearts of believers and nonbelievers. They awakened all patriotic Americans to pray for every member of our military. It is so clear to me that God placed the Vaughn family on a pedestal to give their testimony.”

He encouraged everyone to “love every service member as if he’s our own son, as if she is our own daughter. Let’s think of this family as if they are our family. Let’s think of

every service member as if they are the most important

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Ladies Auxiliary President Rose Busang and Men’s Auxiliary Chaplain Kory Martenson place the wreath at a gravesite. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

people in our lives — because in many ways they are.”

After the ceremony, people lined up to talk with Slater. He took time with each, spending an extra moment to reach down to shake 5-year-old Christopher White’s hand.

As is Ramona VFW tradition, bouquets of flowers went to Gold Star Mothers, those whose son or daughter died in war. Accepting bouquets were Ruth Warnock, whose grandson U.S. Army Cpl. Jeremiah Santos was killed June 15, 2006, and Maria Ojeda, whose son Army Spc. Ramon Ojeda was killed in action in Iraq on May 1, 2004. Both servicemen were killed in action in Iraq.

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U.S. Navy Electronics Technician Chief Harold Krohne plays “Taps.” Sentinel photo/Maureen Roberston

Also as is Ramona VFW tradition, Scholl asked each serviceman and woman to stand and give his or her name, years in service, where enlisted and branch of service. Awe was evident in the eyes of Slater and many others as the men stood and introduced themselves.

He invited all present to also attend the ceremony at the World War II monument on Ninth Street, the ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial on state Route 67, and the Memorial Day Picnic at the VFW post.

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Wearing a God Bless America shirt, Gold Star Grandmother Ruth Warnock listens as veterans stand and introduce themselves to the audience. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

As he left the cemetery, U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Stephan Way of Ramona stopped at the gravesite of a World War I veteran and took a photograph of U.S. Army Pvt. John Lewis Kerr’s gravestone.

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U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Stephan Way stops at the gravesite of World War I U.S. Army Pvt. John Lewis Kerr, who died in 1969. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

“You don’t see that too often, World War I,” he said quietly.

   
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