The commander of the Pleasanton American Legion post said yesterday that less than 1% of the 300 million Americans serve in the military forces today and that less than 5% even know a military family.
In remarks made at the Pleasanton Memorial Day ceremony in the gardens of the city's Senior Center, Rich Ghera said more than 6,000 of these all-volunteer military men and women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and more than 50,000 have been wounded.
"We gather here today to honor our military members who have paid the ultimate price serving our nation and must never forget the sacrifice they have made to preserve the freedoms that we have today," Ghera said.
Several hundred attended the ceremony, a Pleasanton tradition held each Memorial Day and sponsored by the American Legion Post 237 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6298, which have their headquarters in the Veterans Memorial Building on Main Street.
The colorful ceremony included presentations by Mayor Jerry Thorne, and remarks by Major General David Baldwin, the commanding general of the California National Guard. Also participating were the U.S. Air Force R.O.T.C. unit from UC Berkeley, local Boy Scouts and the color guards of both the American Legion and VFW posts.
A special Memorial Day poem was read by Diane Groome, the regent of the Jose Maria Amador chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, with the Gettysburg Address recited by Ann Collins, another Pleasanton Memorial Day ceremony tradition.
A wreath commemorating the sacrifices of military men and women was placed in front of the gathering by Lisa Rosales and Gloria Stahlnecker of the VFW's Ladies Auxiliary.
Patriotic music was provided by the Pleasanton Community Concert Band under the direction of Bob Williams.
After the ceremony, the two veterans' organizations hosted a free barbecue at the Veterans Memorial Building where the two students who won the Patriotic Essay contest were recognized with the VFW's "Voice of Democracy" award. They were Sricharana Muppidi, a senior at Amador Valley High School who was also on the school's "We the People" civics team that won second place in national competition last month in Washington, D.C., and Nathaniel Wong of St. Joachim School in Hayward.