“Today is a solemn reminder of the profound sacrifice made by so many,” said Mayor Kevin Romick, emcee of the event held Saturday morning. “Today we begin a new tradition in Oakley.”
As traffic rushed by on Main Street, about 200 locals gathered to express their appreciation for those who gave their all defending America from its enemies.
In a moving address focused on her son, Sgt. John D. Aragon, Gold Star mother Denise Aragon told onlookers that it’s important that John, like others who have given the last full measure of devotion, not be forgotten. Sgt. Aragon was killed in action in Iraq in 2008.
“People ask me, ‘What can I do?’” Aragon said. “Never forget him. Even if it’s only on holidays, like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, please take a moment to remember.”
Purple Heart veteran Petty Officer 1st Class Chris Marquart recalled the many service members who have been injured putting themselves in harm’s way for their country.
“I’m one of the lucky ones, because I get to stand here and talk about it,” said Marquart, who was wounded in a 2010 rocket attack in Afghanistan. “Nothing can ever replace the hole left by a fallen service member.”
The event included a solemn, two-bell ceremony, the traditional signal of the end of the working day aboard a Navy ship adapted to remember the fallen. The ceremony was performed by the Patriot Sentinel Riders (PSR), who are putting together a plan for a memorial to veterans to be built in the plaza.
“We want to put something here that’s permanent,” said Terry Andreason of the PSR. “You’ll be hearing more about it soon.”
Oakley resident Dean Ochoa believes that honoring those who have died, without the need to travel to another community, is a good thing. “We have a lot of people who have served living right here in Oakley, and I’m glad the city is doing this,” he said. “Other ceremonies are bigger and grander, but this small one is much more intimate, and a whole lot closer.”
Also playing a part in the event were American Legion Post 161; the Freedom High School Choir; Boy Scout Troop 298; Girl Scout Troop 30340; the LDS Church; Marine Corps League 335; Rev. Babatunde Onadele of the Ebenezer Community Church; East County Military Families & Friends; and numerous veterans.
“It’s a beautiful day to remember the people who died to make it possible for us to enjoy it,” said Derril Powers, a Vietnam veteran. “And I think they’d like that we stopped to think about them and then went out and enjoyed ourselves the rest of the day. That’s what I’m planning to do.”