GUSTINE/SANTA NELLA, CA – Around two hundred people braved cold temps and threatening clouds to attend Saturday’s Wreaths Across America ceremony at San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery. The event opened with a moment of silence and a welcome speech given by Bob Phelan, the District Director for Senator Tom Berryhill.
Musical selections included bagpiper Dan Hedburg and George Harcrow on the trumpet. Gaylene Ramos, President of Merced County Blue Star Mothers read the “Patriot Guard Rider Poem”. The Patriot Guard Riders is a motorcycle club founded in 2005 to shelter and protect deceased service members’ families from Westboro Baptist Church protestors. Patriot Guard Riders also coordinate events to welcome home returning service members at airports. A large contingent of attendees were members of the Patriot Guard Riders with their motorcycles lined along the reflecting pool.
Guest speaker, Jeff Sylvan, President of the Delta Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution drew a correlation between the sacrifices of Revolutionary War patriots and those who still fight to preserve America’s freedom today. Members of Turlock Chapter and El Toyon Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution also participated in the wreath laying ceremonies.
Wreath presentations were made to the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and POW/MIA. Ramos noted in her closing remarks that only 630 wreaths were donated for San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery which is the resting place for over 3,000 service men and women. She hopes that one day the cemetery will receive wreaths for all the graves so it will resemble Arlington National Cemetery.