(Left) John Bailey was the guest speaker during the Memorial Day Ceremony held last Monday at Santa Paula Cemetery. Bailey talked about his service during World War II. At right, a member of the VFW stands at “parade rest” as the audience listens to the speakers and honors those fallen to protect our freedom. Photos by Don johnson

Memorial Day Ceremony honors those fallen protecting our freedom

June 03, 2005
Mercer-Prieto VFW Memorial Day Service lauds fallen comrades
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesSanta Paula Cemetery was awash in red, white and blue as the annual Memorial Day Service was held Monday to honor those who lost their lives at war and those now fighting. Sponsored by Mercer-Prieto VFW Post 2043, the service featured a musical prelude by the Isbell Middle School Band with Francine Smith conducting the array of patriotic tunes.“We’re grateful to see so many of you turn out,” noted VFW Jr. Vice Commander Jack Schneider, the event’s master of ceremonies.“We’re here today to pay our respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” in war, said VFW Commander Ralph Leon, who also offered a history of Memorial Day, first established after the Civil War.After the National Anthem, Post Chaplain Delton Lee Johnson offered the invocation, noting that “It is important to know that there is no glory in war,” and that the Constitution was drafted to “protect the rights of the minority.” Johnson asked that those survivors of lost service people, as well as the wounded, be remembered, and to “teach us to love, respect and forgive one another.”Johnson also introduced featured speaker John Bailey, a decorated World War II veteran and author who used his own experiences for a fictional war novel. Bailey, a Navy Corpsman Pharmacist Mate 2nd Class, served in “bitter combat,” including the last battle of Okinawa where the Americans “invaded and forcefully took these islands” from the determined and fierce-fighting Japanese.Jungle wars had their own challenges, with many losses attributable to the terrain and disease, Bailey noted. The highly decorated Bailey asked, “What will we pass on to the next generation? We honor our present and past servicemen and women giving their lives all over the world.” No matter how one feels about the present conflict in Iraq, “They’re our troops,” and must be supported.
Bailey said he and his comrades experienced the “most vicious combat ever known” in areas that experienced 400 inches of rain annually and American losses that ran as high as 60 percent. The author of “Islands of Death - Islands of Victory” urged that others tackle their own experiences: “Every service member has a story to tell and... urge you to write it down” for generations. Bailey spoke of the “wounds that don’t show” but plague survivors of war, including memories of those innocent civilians impacted by war.The Laying of the Wreaths included one in memory of Isbell Band leader Lou Lingo that noted “You Brought Music to Our Hearts.” After the Salute to Departed Comrades by the VFW and Korean War Veterans Chapter 56 rifle squad, Rudy Arellano played Taps to conclude the service.Elaine Hunt, who attended the service, lost her husband of six months, Lt. Jimmy Pratt of the Army Air Corps, when his B17 exploded over France during World War II. “We never were able to bury him,” noted Hunt, whose ancestors have fought in every war that America was engaged in.Her former mother-in-law lost two sons in the war. Hunt’s late husband Robert was a Navy veteran who served at Pearl Harbor. “How do I feel on Memorial Day? Weepy,” noted Hunt.

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