For a city that's known for its downtown parades, the county fair and a shopper's paradise with a regional mall and historic downtown, Memorial Day always offers a solemn side of Pleasanton that hundreds of us also appreciate.
Again Monday, the city's Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts will conduct their annual Memorial Day services starting at 11 a.m. at the city's newly restored Pioneer Cemetery on Sunol Boulevard. This year's theme is "Remembering their sacrifice," as the war in Iraq winds down and another in Afghanistan intensifies.
More than 500 veterans are buried at Pioneer Cemetery, which was established early in the 1800s and contains the remains of many Pleasanton area pioneers and some who died much more recently that many of us knew. Each year my family walks through the grounds and the adjacent Catholic cemetery to remember those we knew and to read the markers of those who are part of Pleasanton's history. Then we walk over to the flagpole for the ceremonies that include local pageantry by the military and scout color guards, several patriotic speeches and songs and, this year, a 21-gun salute by the Air Force ROTC honor guard from UC Berkeley. Also this year, the Collings Foundation, which is exhibiting World War II planes at Livermore Airport this weekend, has agreed to provide a WWII Warbird flyover as part of the ceremony.
On deck for the commentaries Monday are Jim Lyon, commander of VFW Post 6298, as master of ceremonies; Pleasanton's Vice-Mayor Cheryl Cook-Kallio, and Army Brigadier General Nick Tooliatos. Susan Stout-Pierce of the Jose Maria Amador chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution will read a special poem written for the occasion, with "Memorial Reflections" to be read by Dee Matusiewicz of the VFW auxiliary, and the "Gettysburg Address" by Rebecca Rodriguez of Girl Scout Cadette Troop 30986. The "Honor Roll" of 20 Pleasanton veterans who died in the past year and are now buried at Pioneer Cemetery will be read by the VFW's Joe Rose. For those who enjoy patriotic music, Bob Williams will conduct the Pleasanton Community Concert Band in playing familiar tunes before, during and after the one-hour service.
Then there's more. The VFW and American Legion are inviting everyone to drive over to the Veterans Memorial Building on Main Street for a free lunch of hamburgers, hot dogs and beverages, prepared and served by the Pleasanton Lions Club. At 1:15 p.m., Girls Scouts Mandy and Alyssa Hanou will be honored with the organization's highest award, the Gold Award, for completing their project on the history of downtown Pleasanton. After being presented with the Gold Award, which is the Girl Scout's equivalent of the Boy Scouts' Eagle Scout award, their work will be recognized with the dedication of a bronze historical plaque to be placed in the veterans building.
My good friend Dave Ham, an ex-Marine, former commander of the VFW posts and now its chaplain, said attendance at the Memorial Day ceremony grows each year as word spreads about this special observance. Like me, he believes that this one hour of joining together as a community around the flagpole at a centuries-old cemetery offers a special time to reflect on the history of our town, pay tribute to the men and women who defended our country and salute those from Pleasanton who are now in uniform in the service of our nation. We hope you'll join us Monday morning.