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Op-Ed: Sonoma gathers for 56th annual Memorial Day ceremony for Veterans Special

Posted May 30, 2014 by Jonathan Farrell
Hundreds showed up on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014 at the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Park to honor all those who have served the nation in military service. This past Monday was the 56th annual Memorial Day Observance for Sonoma Valley.
Sonoma Valley Fire Dept. had the  Stars and Stripes  flying high above the crowd  estimated at about...
Sonoma Valley Fire Dept. had the "Stars and Stripes" flying high above the crowd, estimated at about 700 to 900 that day at the 56th Annual Sonoma Valley Memorial Day Observance on May 26.
A multitude of American flags blew in the wind as they were posted all around the memorial park lawn on First Street West which served as makeshift amphitheatre and picnic area. Each branch of the U.S. Military was represented and the traditional customs of raising the American Flag, signing of the national anthem, The Pledge of Allegiance were performed. An ariel 'fly-over' was coordinated by Sonoma sky Park Aviators, while God Bless America was sung by vocalist Cindy Daffurn and was accompanied by the Sonoma Hometown Band.
The weather was sunny and warm and the Sonoma Fire Dept. had an extra large American Flag raised up high on one of its engine ladders for all to see, especially from a distance. This was a day for Sonoma people to show their appreciation for all veterans.
Hundreds gathered on May 26 for the 56th Annual Sonoma Valley Memorial Day Observance at Sonoma Vete...
Hundreds gathered on May 26 for the 56th Annual Sonoma Valley Memorial Day Observance at Sonoma Veterans Memorial Park, California.
Colonial William E. Peacock, USMCR (Ret.) was the Master of Ceremonies to introduce many individuals and groups who gathered to honor the memory of US Veterans from all the wars and conflicts they have fought in, defending the United States and its allies.
General Joseph P. Hoar, USMC (Ret.) was the guest of honor and key note speaker for this year's program for the Memorial Day Observance. He mentioned in his speech that "war is not an easy business and the cost of war is very high." Gen. Hoar also noted that unfortunately the war on terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East continue even after 10 years of violent conflict.
Guest of Honor and key note speaker for the program that Monday May 26 was General Joseph P. Hoar  U...
Guest of Honor and key note speaker for the program that Monday May 26 was General Joseph P. Hoar, USMC (Ret.). He noted that "War is not an easy business."
After the general's speech many in the crowd, especially older generations shed tears and removed their hats or placed a hand over the heart to express the sorrow. The releasing of white doves, reading of the many names on the Honor Scroll, the riffle salute and the playing of 'Taps' simultaneously; as well as the bag pipes, moved many people. "I was very moved by it all," said Sonoma resident Kathy Ostram. Her husband Steve served in Vietnam and even though he returned home, the scars of war remain. "He and his platoon were exposed to agent orange," she said.
"It was all very moving. Yet for me the most moving were the 'Code of Conduct' and 'Code of Support' just listening to the words of those read aloud made me heavy hearted," she said. 'The Code of Conduct' and 'Code of Support' were read by Lance Corporal Shane Dalton, USMCR and his mother Sonoma City Council Member, Laurie Gallian.
Sonoma Sky Park Aviators provided the annual  fly-over  during the riffle salute and the signing of ...
Sonoma Sky Park Aviators provided the annual "fly-over" during the riffle salute and the signing of "God Bless America" as the annual ceremony observance came to a conclusion.
Ostram pointed to the copy of the program she brought with her. She pointed out the paragraph from 'Our Troops' Code of Conduct' The paragraph that moved her reads as follows: "If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades...I will never forget that I am an American fighting for freedom."
Another part of the program that day that moved Ostram to tears was the presentation of the Blue and Gold Star Banners. Blue stars signify that a son or daughter is actively serving in the military and a gold star signifies that a daughter or son has died in service to her or his country. "These banners are presented to parents and families," she said. Established during World War I in 1917, the Blue and Gold Star Service Flag banners have continued to this day.
The California National Guard of the  Honor Guard  performed the riffle salute.
The California National Guard of the "Honor Guard" performed the riffle salute.
Ostram said that she makes a point of attending the Memorial Day Observance each year because, "with all the freedoms we enjoy in this nation, it is so easy to forget that all of these freedoms were and are won by tremendous sacrifices made by our military." "Having a husband who served in Vietnam, I never forget that," she said.
"And, she said, whenever names are read of those who have died, pay attention to how young they are." "So many of our soldiers are young men and women in the prime of their lives; some in their early 20's, just beginning their lives," she said. "Look at how much they accomplished while in military service." She also noted how sad it was for the parents and those family members who loved them. "The sorrow and loss never goes away," she said.
Ostram was very proud of the fact that this annual observance was organized and conducted all by local people. The program involved dozens and dozens of Sonoma Valley businesses, merchants, civic and military organizations all donating their time and effort to remember and honor those who died in service to the nation.
Rev. Peader A. Dalton (no relation to Lance Corporal Shane Dalton) gave both the invocation-opening prayer and the benediction-closing prayer for the program.
Afterwards when talking to this reporter he said, he used words from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address as well as from the New Testament to form his opening and closing prayers. "I think it is very important that we honor those who have served our country," said Rev. Dalton.
 The Code of Conduct and Code of Support as it was read aloud moved me very deeply   said Sonoma res...
"The Code of Conduct and Code of Support as it was read aloud moved me very deeply," said Sonoma resident Kathy Ostram.
He believes that well over a million have died in all the wars fought for America since the Revolutionary War of 1776. According to the U.S. Defense Dept. as of 2013, over 6,000 men and women have died in the 'War on Terror' in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East.
"We should remember and honor those who have died with a spirit of love and dedication as part of our gratitude," he said. The sacrifices made for love of country, he noted are immense and the ripple effect impacts many families not just in the present. It also impacts the future. The Rev. also mentioned that as citizens we can honor our veterans by recognizing the important privilege of voting and the importance of the contribution of immigrants. The ideals of freedom here in America is a light and a hope to many people around the globe. This is something we must not take for granted.