A respectful crowd, many having brought lawn chairs and others choosing to sit on tailgates or simply stand, gathered Monday morning at the Oakdale Citizens Cemetery for the annual Memorial Day service hosted by the Romain Schell Veterans of Foreign Wars Post.
The 11 a.m. service included an invocation, a special reading by retired Oakdale Police Department Lt. Vern Gladney, remarks from US Navy (retired) and local historian Glenn Burghardt, and brief recollections of veterans by members of the audience.
Gladney shared the history of ‘General Order #11’ that paved the way for the Memorial Day holiday observance, which originally was known as Decoration Day and originally remembered Civil War veterans. After World War I, it was changed to reflect remembrance of all veterans, from all wars.
Burghardt offered a little history about notable war veterans and early Oakdale pioneers buried in the cemetery and said the local cemetery was covered with over 550 small American flags, placed on the graves of known local veterans.
“I’m sure we missed some,” he told the crowd, offering an apology for the veterans’ graves that might not have a flag, simply because the volunteers placing the flags didn’t know they were a veteran.
Emcee for the ceremony was Billy Bryels, U.S. Army retired. The ceremony also included the reading of a poem by Burghardt’s great granddaughter, a 21-gun salute and the playing of Taps by Ron Qunitanal. VFW Post Chaplain Charles Russell offered a prayer prior to the singing of God Bless America, which wrapped up the morning ceremony.
The crowd was also told of a Veterans Appreciation Day that will be staged at Fish Memorial Park on Nov. 11 – so they have plenty of time to write it down on their calendar and plan to attend.
While the cemetery had small American flags decorating the graves and many wreaths laid against headstones, the Oakdale Lions Club also did their traditional placing of flags along the F Street corridor and down some side streets, placing the flags early morning Monday so they could be enjoyed throughout the day.
The Oakdale service recognizing veterans was one of several around the Central Valley, with other memorials in Valley Home, Farmington and Escalon, to name a few.