The Pearl Harbor survivor and Concord resident spoke at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony in Antioch, emphasizing the importance of remembering those who have given their lives for freedom.
According to Kohler, that type of remembering is growing scarce. On his way to Oak View Memorial Park for the event, he saw Old Glory flying outside only a few homes in his neighborhood.
Earlier, when he visited a fellow veteran in a retirement home, the vet told him that aside from members of his church who deliver communion to him, Kohler and his wife are his only visitors.
“It made me think that a people who won’t remember those who have sacrificed their lives on their behalf, those people themselves will soon be forgotten,” Kohler said. “Make it a point, not only on Memorial Day, but all throughout the year, to take a moment of your time to go to locations such as this or to a care facility within your community or a veteran’s home. I guarantee you that there you will find a forgotten soldier.”
Kohler’s speech served as one of the most powerful reminders of the true cost of freedom, as Antioch honored the men and women who fought for their country but did not return home.
Antioch’s Memorial Day event started in 1999, after a World War II veteran asked Antioch’s City Council if the city had any services planned. Mayor Jim Davis, then a councilman, promised the veteran that Antioch would do so. In the event’s inaugural year, only a couple dozen people showed up, but now hundreds of East County residents attend.
“Whatever we’re doing on Memorial Day we can enjoy because of the sacrifices that you have made for us and the labors that you have brought to our country,” Davis told the crowd of veterans at the event. “So from the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
It has become a tradition for Antioch’s Memorial Day celebration to open with the thunderous noise of motorcycles, and this year was no different. More than 100 bikers, among them many veterans, paraded from City Hall down East 18th Street to Oak View Memorial Park.
Memorial Day honors those who have fought in all American wars and either died or were reported as missing in action or prisoners of war. One of the most emotional parts of the ceremony occurred when Elden Strand, command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 483rd Transportation Battalion, placed a rose on the 9/11 Monument.
Antioch’s Memorial Day celebration also featured stellar musical performances from Heather Sanders, the Deer Valley High School marching band, Carolina Bruno, Psalms 100 Choir and Justin Spahn.
“We are constantly reminded of the heroism of our service men and women, and they have truly performed heroic acts,” said Maurice Delmer, a veteran and representative of Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla. “On Memorial Day, I’m reminded of the pain and sorrow of losing someone that I share the bond of brotherhood with, that runs so deep in the fighting holes and the trenches.”