Local News

Monday, May 26 2014 04:27 PM

Veterans 'made America forever worthy of saving'

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Eighty-three-year-old Raymond Layva walks the grounds of Historic Union Cemetery looking for the grave of his nephew following Memorial Day services there. Layva served in the National Guard in 1949.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Karinna Filoteo places flags at the grave of her grandfather, World War II Army veteran Henry S. Filoteo, at Historic Union Cemetery on Memorial Day.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    On Memorial Day 2014, James and Mary Garland remember their son, Vietnam veteran Michael Garland, at Historic Union Cemetery. Garland served in the U.S. Army.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Following a rifle salute, the Associated Veterans of Kern County honor guard played Taps toward the end of the Memorial Day Service at Historic Union Cemetery.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Bakersfield High School social studies teacher Jeremy Adams gave a stirring speech at the Memorial Day Services held at Historic Union Cemetery and received a standing ovation.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    BHS history teacher Ken Hooper talked about the long history of Kern County veterans and the wars they served in.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    BHS history teacher Ken Hooper talked about the long history of Kern County veterans and the wars in which they served.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    The combined Jr. ROTC of Bakersfield, South, and West high schools posted the colors at Historic Union Cemetery's Memorial Day services.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Arnold Burr, left, and Darrell Meaders chat before the start of Memorial Day Services at Historic Union Cemetery. Burr is part of the Sons of the American Revolution organization while Meaders is with Associated Veterans of Kern County.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    A moment of prayer at Historic Union Cemetery's Memorial Day services.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Savannah Young sang the National Anthem at Union Cemetery's Memorial Day services.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Genieca Risner and her son, Navy PO1 Brandon Risner, place the Memorial Wreath at Historic Union Cemetery during Memorial Day servcies.

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BY RUTH BROWN Californian staff writer rbrown@bakersfield.com

Red, white and blue balloons were released into the sky Monday in the Historic Union Cemetery by ceremony guests, all representing fallen servicemembers.

An estimated 350 people attended the Memorial Day event in the cemetery, which had American flags planted in front of each headstone.

Guest speakers included local teachers and elected officials.

Jeremy Adams, a Bakersfield High School teacher, spoke of how Memorial Day should be not only honor servicemen and women, but also the families and those who suffered after their loved ones' death, and the freedom America has because of them. He said the American dream could be tied to those freedoms.

"As a lifelong teacher of American politics, what I know is that the American dream is not a lie, it's not a sham ... the American dream is not for some people," Adams said. "The American dream is for everybody. Rich and poor, black and white, and for those (who had) forefathers who came over on the Mayflower 400 years ago, to those who crossed the Rio Grande just yesterday."

Don Galey, chairman of the Union Cemetery historical board, said the day was one to remember the sacrifices made by veterans.

"You can never remind the public of that enough," Galey said. "We all have a friend or family member who died in service."

Anita Cowen, of Bakersfield, attended the ceremony and thought of her late husband, Donald.

He was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War.

"The service was very touching," she said.

Mary Rivas' husband, Alex, served in WWII as a member of the Army, and he is buried in the Historic Union Cemetery. The Bakersfield woman attended the ceremony to support servicemen and women such as her family members.

"It's important to honor (the veterans') memory, but also these families of veterans," Rivas said.

Rivas' brother, Doroteo Lopez, also was enlisted in the Army. He died in an accident in 1946, shortly after joining up.

"We never even got to see him in his uniform," she said.

Prayer, song and speeches brought shouts of "Amen" from the crowd during the service.

"We all know that our veterans saved America," Adams said. "But what we forget is that they did something even nobler: They made America forever worthy of being saved.

"... We owe it to our veterans to not just remember them, but to live lives every day that are worthy of them," Adams said.

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