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Ceremonies honor fallen heroes

Commemoration includes wreath for Joshua Hardt
By: Colin Berr Journal Staff Writer Colin Berr,Journal Staff Writer
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“In this cemetery, valor sleeps,” Bonnie Potter said to the veterans and families of the fallen at New Auburn Cemetery Monday morning. The Memorial Day service commemorated soldiers from the Auburn area who had given the ultimate sacrifice, from World War II Sgt. Masa Sakamoto to Sgt. Joshua Hardt, the latest name to be added to the memorial. Hardt lost his life last October while serving his country. The 2004 Placer High School graduate and Applegate resident died when his unit was ambushed by hundreds of insurgents in eastern Nuristan province in Afghanistan. The 24-year-old was posthumously honored with the Bronze Star. During Monday’s service, Hardt’s wife, Olivia, and his mother, Shelley Bell, laid a wreath over the memorial in his honor, as “Amazing Grace” was played and white doves flew. Local aircraft thundered overhead before a rifle salute and playing of Taps. Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes spoke of the famous 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made up of Japanese-American soldiers, with whom Sgt. Sakamoto and many other Placer County servicemen fought on the German front during World War II. Sakamoto lost his life in the battle of the Rescue of the Texas Lost Battalion. “In October 1944, 200 Texas soldiers were surrounded by the German army in southern France, and their own division was unsuccessful in rescuing them,” Holmes said. “The 442nd was sent in and after almost five days of constant fighting they reached and rescued the Texas soldiers; but at the heavy cost of over 950 soldiers killed or wounded. One company of 186 riflemen had only eight men standing when they reached the Texans; another company of 185 had only four men standing. Sgt. Sakamoto was one of those killed in action.” The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was the most highly decorated combat unit of its size in the history of the United States Armed Forces. The Rescue of the Lost Battalion has been designated as one of the top 10 battles fought by the United States Army. The American Legion Post 84, assisted by area Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and other volunteers, placed flags at veterans’ graves Thursday and Friday in the New and Old Auburn cemeteries. In addition to being the emcee at the New Auburn Cemetery, Potter also moderated services at the Old Auburn Cemetery, Newcastle Cemetery, and Maidu Indian Cemetery. She has the honor of having been the first woman physician in the Navy medical corps, she said. Speakers commented that it was the largest Memorial Day gathering to be seen in Auburn. The breadth of the crowd gave visitors the opportunity to pay their respects to the many other flag-draped graves. Teri Wiebe came to honor her son, Bill Maddox, who died in an accident while stationed at an Air Force base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, just before being shipped overseas. “It really was a marvelous ceremony,” Wiebe said, biting back tears as she stood before her son’s grave. The New Auburn Cemetery memorial site was designated in 2005. Since then, three new names have been added from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.