Pleasanton's annual Memorial Day observance will start at 10:30 a.m. today in the garden area just south of the Pleasanton Senior Center on Sunol Boulevard.
The event, hosted by the American Legion Pleasanton Post 237 with the assistance of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Pleasanton Post 6298, honors all military veterans including those now on active duty and especially those who died while serving their country.
A preliminary musical interlude by the Pleasanton Community Band under the direction of Bob Williams will begin the ceremony with the program of tributes to start at 11 a.m.
Bill Leedle, commander of Legion Post 237, will open the ceremony, introducing Commander Kurt Heuer of VFW Post 6298, who will give the welcoming address. Then the Legion color guard, under the direction of guard commander Jim Lyon, will present the colors, followed by the "Pledge of Allegiance," led by Eagle Scout Oliver Heiman of Troop 998.
The keynote speaker will be Lt. Col. Christopher Gerdes, garrison commander at Camp Parks in Dublin. He will address the sacrifices the country's military has made through the years and will also talk about the future of the military.
Following Gerdes address, there will be a 21-gun salute to veterans by the UC Berkeley Air Force R.O.T.C. and "Taps," played by the Concert Band.
Richard Ghera, American Legion post adjutant, said the hour-long ceremony will feature a number of special tributes along with patriotic music by the band, including the national anthem, "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America."
During the ceremony, Donna Willy will play the bagpipe as a Memorial Day wreath is placed at the speaker's lectern by a member of the local Sea Scouts.
Speakers in addition to Gerdes will include Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne, an invocation and closing benediction by Amy Noble, garrison chaplain at Camp Parks, and a reading of the "Gettysburg Address" by Eagle Scout Spencer Aquiline of local Troop 998. Nancy Wilhelm, vice regent of the Jose Maria chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, will read a Memorial Day poem, followed by an "Honor Roll of Silence" by Legion member Rene LaVigne.
Parking and restrooms are available at the Senior Center.
In Pleasanton, Memorial Day observances started Saturday as Scouts from Troops 941 and 998 placed small American flags on the more than 600 veterans' graves at St. Augustine Catholic and Pleasanton Pioneer cemeteries. The number of gravesites to decorate keeps growing as more and more of our city's World War II servicemen and servicewomen leave us on this, the 70th year since the Second World War ended.
Memorial Day was traditionally observed on May 30. But in 1968, the national holiday was moved to the last Monday in May to create a convenient three-day weekend. Despite opposition, all 50 states, including California, began complying with the change of date in the early 1970s.
The special day originated after the American Civil War to honor the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the war, and, at the time, was known as Decoration Day. The holiday was extended by the 20th century to include all American soldiers and was officially named Memorial Day. The somber observance differs from Veterans Day, which celebrates the service of all who have served and are serving in the military.
Although Memorial Day is specifically designated to honor those who died serving the U.S., it has also become the day seen as the start of the summer season and school graduations. It's also become a time of retail sales specials, family getaways and backyard barbecues.
Of all U.S. holidays, it is especially a day to fly the flag outside homes and businesses.