Memorial Day ceremonies to honor those who died for their country

Local groups planning tributes at area sites
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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Memorial Day is not about three-day sales. It’s a day for Americans to pay tribute to those who gave their lives to defend the country, and quite a few local individuals and military groups are joining forces and holding four ceremonies at area cemeteries to ensure Auburnites don’t forget the true meaning of the holiday. “Most of us that are veterans believe it is important to honor those who have served our country, and especially those who have given their lives in conflict,” said Bonnie B. Potter, president of the Placer County Council of the Navy League. “Unfortunately, a lot of people look at Memorial Day as the first day of summer. We are all concerned that recently people have lost the meaning of Memorial Day, and think it’s the start of summer, a three-day holiday.” Joining forces to commemorate Memorial Day locally are members of the: Auburn-area Honor Guard, American Legion Post 84 and the American Legion Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars Placer Foothills Post 904, Fleet Reserve Association Mother Lode 296 and Ladies Auxiliary, Marine Corps League Placer Bulldog Detachment 1247, Disabled American Veterans Post 80, Knights of Columbus Mother Lode Assembly 2778 and the Placer County League of the Navy of the United States. Why observe Memorial Day? It’s simple, Potter said. “We wouldn’t be here without those who have served,” she said. According to the U.S. Department of State Web site, many states observed a May 30 holiday following the Civil War honoring the lives lost in that conflict, often by decorating their graves with flowers. Ceremonies typically were expanded to include the nation’s war dead in every conflict, following World War I, according to the U.S. Department of State. The Uniform Holidays Act established a federal legal holiday, fixed on a Monday, beginning in 1971. Terry Crouson, a retired marine and member of the Auburn-area Honor Guard, believes Memorial Day should be restored to its original date of observance, May 30, instead of the last Monday in May. “I’d like to get it back to where it ought to be, and do it right,” he said. Crouson, whose brother Michael Lee Crouson was killed in action during the Vietnam War, has submitted sample resolutions proposing a return to a May 30 Memorial Day to local leaders including the Auburn City Council and the Placer County Board of Supervisors. Dan Sokol, local World War II Army veteran, agrees with Crouson. “I feel it would be far better to celebrate on the actual holiday, like with Christmas and the Fourth of July, rather than a convenient day for a holiday,” he said. Regardless of when Memorial Day is observed, the bottom line is that fallen men and women are honored. “It is to remember those who served, particularly those who gave the supreme sacrifice,” Sokol said. “Hopefully, we can get people to remember by attending the ceremonies, by participating in the ceremonies and by wearing the poppies that are distributed.” Mike Holmes, Auburn City Councilman and retired Navy captain, plans to attend Monday’s ceremony at the New Auburn Cemetery. “I think it’s important that everyone, whether you’ve served time in the military or not, takes a moment to pause and reflect on the sacrifices these brave men and women have made,” he said. Ceremonies begin at 9 a.m. Monday at the New Auburn Cemetery, located at 1040 Collins Drive, with comments by local officials, a fly over, the release of white doves and rendering the honors for departed comrades, including local Marines Lance Cpl. John Lucente and Cpl. Sean Stokes, whose names have been added to the War Memorial at the New Auburn Cemetery. Lucente, a 2004 Bear River graduate, was killed in a hand grenade attack Nov. 16, 2005 in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. Stokes, a 2001 Bear River High graduate, died July 30, 2007, while on his third tour of duty in Al Anbar province, Iraq. Stokes was killed after stepping on an improvised explosive device. Brief ceremonies, with the rendering of honors and the laying of wreaths, will follow at 10 a.m. at the Old Auburn Cemetery, 170 Fulweiler Ave.; at 11 a.m. the Newcastle Cemetery at concluding with a noon ceremony at the Maidu Indian Cemetery. The Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at