KING CITY — Veterans and residents alike gathered at King City Cemetery last Monday for the annual Memorial Day ceremony, hosted by the King City VFW Post 6747.
“The Post extends a special welcome and appreciation to all of you that have gathered here this morning to remember American fallen comrades,” said VFW Post 6747 Commander Frank Garcia to the gathered crowd.
The 360 flags in the Avenue of Flags denoted the veterans buried at the cemetery, along with the 55 who died in action.
“We are mindful now more than ever that the freedom and prosperity we enjoy came at a price,” said Chaplain Brian Eastham of Fort Hunter Liggett during the invocation at the beginning of the May 30 ceremony.
Members of the Soledad High School NJROTC were color guards for the event, which was accompanied by bagpipe and bugle talent, as well as a performance of the National Anthem by Nadia Manzano.
“There are so many events we do to honor our military, but this is the most important,” said King City Mayor Mike LeBarre. “All of us were able to come here of our own free will because of the men and women who have sacrificed their lives to protect our constitution.”
LeBarre noted he was glad to see the many young people present in the crowd of more than 100 attendees.
“It is very important for them to understand and recognize how special our country is,” he said. “There are many democracies in this world, but they are not free nations. Their people do not have freedom of speech. Their people do not have the right to bear arms. Only our republic has ever made sure and enshrined in our constitution the rights and freedoms of individuals all around.”
Garcia called out past Post Commander Lorenzo Espino as the recipient of the Veteran of the Year and Garrison Award, which was presented to Espino by Lt. Col. Jose Yrigollen of Fort Hunter Liggett.
“His knowledge and work ethic has been exemplary to me and younger comrades,” Garcia said. “He always goes above and beyond the call of duty to help the post.”
Espino has been a member of the VFW Post for 49 years.
“What an exceptional leader in the VFW and in the community,” Yrigollen said of Espino.
In his speech, Yrigollen said it’s important for those present to honor the sacrifices of soldiers. He said what people can do toward that end is to, “Be proud, never forget, and enjoy life. Live your life to honor the men and women that we remember on Memorial Day.”
Yrigollen pointed out the Avenue of Flags.
“These flags represent someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister, and tragically, someone’s father or mother,” he said. “How do we honor their sacrifice? That’s what we should be contemplating on this Memorial Day.”
Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez spoke about the importance of memory that is kept through community tradition and stories.
“We honor our heritage, we honor our flag, and we honor everyone who came before us,” Lopez said. “It’s not forgetting telling the stories of every single person who has come and gone before us who has paid with the blood sweat and tears to keep our freedoms, to keep our liberty, to keep our form of government.”
Lopez reminded attendees to bring someone to future ceremonies, to continue the growth of community traditions and remembrance.
“If we were a little more connected, we’d be a lot better off,” he said.
Community members and groups placed memorial wreaths at the cemetery entrance, where Espino and Cliff Williams received them to hang on the stand.
Other Memorial Day ceremonies also took place in Gonzales, Soledad and Greenfield this year.