William A. Fish was the first soldier from Oakdale to be killed in Vietnam.
“He was only 18 years old; he never came back,” said Oakdale VFW Post Life Member Paul Lewis, as he welcomed the crowd attending the Saturday, Nov. 11 Veterans Day Ceremony at William A. Fish Veterans Memorial Park.
The gathering on Saturday to honor the service and sacrifice of local veterans was staged at the park on Pontiac Street, named for one of Oakdale’s own lost in service.
VFW Post 2922 Commander Dan Vigil, who served in the Navy from 1968 to 1971, also took the podium on Saturday and offered thanks and praise for all veterans.
“They possess courage, pride, determination ... qualities needed to serve a cause greater than themselves,” Vigil said. “They are ordinary people, responding in extraordinary ways.”
He added that Americans, men and women, have answered the call to serve and we mourn those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“Nothing can ever replace the hole left behind by a fallen service member,” he said. “Our gathering is just one small spark in the flames of pride.”
He said Veterans Day originally was called Armistice Day and was first observed to mark the end of World War I. It was later expanded to be a day of honor and remembrance for all veterans.
Local Mid Cal Blue Star Moms member Lynda Donelson stepped to the microphone and introduced herself as a “proud mother of a United States Air Force disabled veteran” and said it was fitting to join with the community to “honor our heroes” to mark Veterans Day.
Her son was 18 when he joined the Air Force and he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011.
“When he returned, he wasn’t the same,” she said, explaining that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury, had shoulder and back injuries and PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder.
“He has made immense strides toward a normal life,” she said. “We must honor all military families with a gracious heart.”
She said people need to be cognizant of the “immense toll” that war can take on the families of service members as well as those being deployed.
“They need support and acknowledgement of their service,” she said.
Along with other guest speakers, including retried U.S. Army Lt. Col. Pete Simoncini, the event featured a flag retirement ceremony conducted by the local Boy Scout Troop 43, including a final salute before the flag was retired, burned according to proper retirement procedure.
Recognition was also given to Jim Adams and Bill Gladney, a pair of local WWII veterans who were able to go on an Honor Flight to Washington, DC in October. Adams attended the Saturday ceremony; Gladney was unable to be there.