SALINAS VALLEY — Memorial Day ceremonies will be impacted by Covid-19 health guidelines once again, with Greenfield and Gonzales hosting small ceremonies, King City only having a cemetery wreath drop-off and Soledad standing out with a ceremony on par with previous years.
“Soledad has had a long history of honoring our fallen warriors,” said Tony Virrueta, a member of American Legion Post 32. “Every year we have an outdoor ceremony at the cemetery with flags up. Last year was a bit marred because of Covid, and we had to have an abbreviated, very open space ceremony. This year the community is eager to get out there and remember Memorial Day.”
Virrueta said any type of remembrance is good, even if it is hanging a flag or patriotic item displayed in a yard. The point, he noted, is paying respect to the fallen.
“We can never forget all the freedoms we have today as Americans and all the sacrifices it took throughout our history,” Virrueta said. “It’s not so much a name on a wall, a name on a tombstone. These people were brothers, fathers, grandfathers who gave up all their tomorrows for our today.”
Soledad will have a military ceremony at the Soledad Cemetery, 1711 Metz Road, with setup beginning at 8 a.m. and the ceremony and speech to begin at 10 a.m.
Soledad NJROTC will assist, with their commander Pete Gomez leading the posting of the flag before a performance of the National Anthem by two local sisters. Guest speaker Kevin Peaches, who served in the Navy for 23 years, will talk about his time in service and the meaning of Memorial Day.
Social distancing and masks will be encouraged.
“We invite everyone to come out and remember these fallen heroes,” Virrueta said.
The other large ceremony in Monterey County will be in Salinas at 9 a.m., with guest speaker Congressman Jimmy Panetta, who will speak about his experience as a Navy combat veteran.
Meanwhile, smaller ceremonies will take place in Greenfield and Gonzales.
Greenfield American Legion Commander Carlos Venegas said 200 flags will be placed at local cemeteries and short ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. at the Greenfield Catholic Cemetery. Once finished there, Venegas will travel to the cemetery near Oak Park to conduct a brief ceremony there.
“The main thing is to honor the fallen,” Venegas said. “We honor the ones that have fallen and the sacrifice they’ve made for our military and our country.”
The Lions Club and American Legion will then partner to host a chicken barbecue takeout from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Greenfield Memorial Hall, 615 El Camino Real.
Gonzales American Legion will also host a small ceremony at 9 a.m. in Gonzales, placing 140 flags out in an avenue of flags to honor the veterans buried there.
American Legion Post 81 Adjutant Artemio Ramirez said they plan to have a shortened ceremony without big crowds, and anticipate an attendance of family members of the deceased, veterans and community members. The Ladies Auxiliary will read off names of fallen veterans of Gonzales and wars they participated in, followed by a speech by commander Paul Guzman.
“In previous years, we would follow that up with a chicken barbecue, but we’re not doing that this year,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez noted the importance of continuing to follow health guidelines.
“Our older veterans, some of them have issues with their health and their immune systems,” he said. “We’re asking people do social distancing and use discretion to wear masks when around others.”
King City VFW Post 6747 President Lorenzo Espino confirmed there is no Memorial Day ceremony in King City this year, but the group will host a barbecue after last year’s event was canceled due to pandemic health concerns.
However, for those wishing to honor fallen veterans in the cemetery, Espino said the traditional screens would be in place at King City Cemetery, along with hooks, so that residents or groups can leave wreaths anytime in the morning. Both King City VFW and the Ladies Auxiliary are planning to bring wreaths this year.
VFW members, as well as volunteers from Fort Hunter Liggett and Boy Scout adult leadership, will conduct the placement of flags, since the Boy Scouts themselves will not participate in the main placement of flags due to health guidelines. The group will work as early as 7 a.m. to place 357 flags around the cemetery, 1010 Broadway St.
The barbecue will take place from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in a drive-thru format at the King City VFW Hall, 599 Bitterwater Road.