Local News

Sunday, May 25 2014 11:03 PM

Community honors its fallen warriors

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    U.S. Army veterans who both served in Vietnam and were killed in action Larry Pierce, left, and Leonard Alvarado, right, were both recognized during Sunday's Remembering Our Kern County Fallen Heroes at the Wall of Valor.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Associated Veterans of Bakersfield Honor Guard performs a rifle salute at Sunday's Remembering Our Fallen Heroes event.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Dignitaries participate in the laying of the wreaths portion of the Memorial Day event Sunday in Bakersfield at the Wall of Valor.

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  4. 4 of 23

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Associated Veterans of Bakersfield Honor Guard played taps toward the end of Sunday's Remembering Our Kern County Fallen Heroes Memorial Day recognition.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    A member of the Sons of the American Revolution participates in Sunday's Remembering Our Kern County Fallen Heroes at the Wall of Valor on the Memorial Day weekend in Bakersfield. State Assembywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, left, was giving the closing prayer.

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  6. 6 of 23

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Associated Veterans of Bakersfield member Ben Palmer salutes during the raising of the flags Sunday at the Remembering Our Kern County Fallen Heroes at the Wall of Valor event.

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  7. 7 of 23

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Members of the Associated Veterans of Bakersfield Honor Guard played taps and songs representing each branch of the military during Sunday's Remembering Our Kern County Fallen Heroes at the Wall of Valor. This event was put on by the Kern County Veterans Service Department and the Kern Veterans Memorial Foundation.

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  8. 8 of 23

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Many were on hand to get photographs of Sunday's Memorial Day weekend event Remembering Our Kern County Fallen Heroes at the Wall of Valor.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, is the keynote speaker during the Remembering Our Kern County Fallen Heroes at the Wall of Valor Memorial Day weekend event in Bakersfield in late May.

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  10. 10 of 23

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfied, former Rep. Bill Thomas, and Tom Pasek, president of the Bakersfield National Cemetery Support Group, right, talk before the Memorial Day Service Sunday morning.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Many attended the Memorial Day Service Sunday at the Bakersfield National Cemetery off Highway 58, east of Bakersfield.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Dignitaries were on the platform in front of the crowd as the California National Guard State Honor Guard presents the colors at the start of Sunday's annual Memorial Day Service at the Bakersfield National Cemetery.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Wreaths representing all branches of the military were on display Sunday at the Bakersfield National Cemetery along with this wreath honoring all of the POW/MIA's who served their country.

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  14. 14 of 23

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    All of the headstones had American flags placed next to them for the annual Memorial Day Service at the Bakersfield National Cemetery Sunday.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Mike Grover, commander of the United States Navy Reserve, was the keynote speaker at Sunday's Memorial Day Service at the Bakersfield National Cemetery.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Members of the California National Guard State Honor Guard performed a rifle salute Sunday at the Bakersfield National Cemetery during the annual Memorial Day Service.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Alice Brown of Oildale holds the dog tags of her husband, World War II veteran Clayton Brown, during the Memorial Day Service Sunday at the Bakersfield National Cemetery. The U.S. Marine who served his country died in 2009 and is buried at the Bakersfield National Cemetery.

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  18. 18 of 23

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Kern County Veterans Services Department Director Dick Taylor keeps busy Sunday morning during the annual Memorial Day Service at the Bakersfield National Cemetery.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Kern County Veterans Services Department Director Dick Taylor keeps busy Sunday morning during the annual Memorial Day Service at the Bakersfield National Cemetery.

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    By Casey Christie/ The Californian

    Godfather, a member of the Patriot Guard, stands with a large group all holding American flags during the Sunday morning Memorial Day Service at Bakersfield National Cemetery.

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  21. 21 of 23

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    American flags were placed at each headstone for the Memorial Day service at the Bakersfield National Cemetery, Sunday.

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  22. 22 of 23

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Robert Leal and his wife, Hilda, (not pictured) visit the gravesite of his father, U.S. Army veteran Manuel Leal, Sunday at the Bakersfield National Cemetery.

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  23. 23 of 23

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Robert and Hilda Leal went to the Bakersfield National Cemetery Sunday to visit Robert's father's gravesite, World War II U.S. Army Veteran Manual Leal, who died in 2012.

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By Ruth Brown Californian staff writer rbrown@bakersfield.com

As the color guard’s three shots were fired and the somber sound of taps played, some onlookers at Sunday’s memorial service wept at the Bakersfield National Cemetery.

The cemetery hosted a ceremony Sunday in honor of the American soldiers who have died in the line of duty. An estimated 1,000 people attended the Memorial Day event.

An additional estimated 200 people attended the ceremony Remembering Our Fallen Kern County Heroes at the Wall of Valor in downtown Bakersfield.

The keynote speaker at the cemetery was U.S. Navy Reserve Cmdr. Mike Grover, who wore a camouflage uniform at the podium.

Before he began speaking, Grover walked to the podium and removed his unit number, his name tag and his rank from his uniform.

He put on the full face mask, gloves and eye protection that servicemembers wear. No skin was left visible, but the American flag on his uniform remained.

Grover told onlookers the uniform means his race, his religion, his sexual orientation and anything else that builds barriers in society was gone.

“This camouflage draws attention away from me,” Grover said.

Instead, it unites warriors.

Doris Fennell, of Bakersfield, attended the ceremony at the cemetery where her husband, Bruce, is buried.

He served in the Army from 1958 to 1961.

“We come every year,” Fennell said. “He would have liked it because I know he was proud to serve.”

Fennell admitted that her husband would likely have shed tears on Memorial Day.

Bakersfield National Cemetery has more than 3,000 veterans buried on the grounds.

Tom Pasek, president of the Bakersfield National Cemetery Support Committee, said Memorial Day is the opportunity to honor fallen heroes, unlike Veterans Day which commemorates all military personnel.

“This is our one day of the year to recognize veterans who are decreased,” Pasek said.
Dean Cupp’s grandfather, Gerald Moore, was buried in the cemetery last year. He was a member of the U.S. Air Force.

“It’s important to remember all of those fallen soldiers,” said Cupp, 16.

Former Congressman Bill Thomas spoke at the cemetery, noting the hardships servicemembers have.

“Freedom isn’t free, and we’re here to honor those that have paid for it,” said Thomas.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, served as keynote speaker at the Wall of Valor memorial.

He spoke of the warriors who gave their lives for both America and Kern County.

“They believed in something bigger than themselves. (They believed in) the country itself,” McCarthy said. “... In every war, every battle and every conflict, someone from this community rose up.”
In the last 10 years, 23 Kern County servicemembers have died in the line of duty.

David “Fletch” Fletcher, 68, attended the Wall of Valor’s memorial service as a part of the motorcycle salute with other American Legion Riders of Chapter 26. He rode in on his orange Gold Wing motorcycle, along with a line of about a dozen other veteran riders.

Fletcher served three tours of duty during the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1968. He hopes people remember the sacrifices servicemembers make.

“They have basically signed their life away to protect our freedom,” he said.

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