A light mist was falling over Crescent City Cemetery on Memorial Day as Del Norte Superior Court Judge Robert Cochrane gave the opening prayer and performed songs on guitar.
Looking out across the flag-adorned cemetery dedicated to military personnel, VFW Cmdr. Jerry Johnson said the graves represent the resting places of many departed veterans whose presence there makes the ground hallowed.
Stan Webb lit the eternal flame, after which Johnson explained it represents the spirit of man, which burns forever.
Retired Marine Lt. Col. David Cooper told the stories of soldiers who lost their lives during and after active duty.
He spoke of 1st Lt. David Nairn, among 241 personnel killed by a suicide bomber in 1983, engaged to be married later that year. Cmdr. Patrick Dunn, killed in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, before he could fulfill his dream of becoming a Naval ship captain or see his daughter being born. Major Ricardo Crocker, also an officer with Santa Monica Police Department, was killed in Iraq in 2005.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Luis Melendez and Staff Sgt. Alecia Good were killed during a training mission in Northern Djibouti while trying to avoid an anti-aircraft weapon that caused two helicopters to collide. Good’s daughter is now being raised by her grandparents, Cooper said.
He said while their mission was to be short and not combat related, it did not diminish their service and dedication, or the sense of loss for those they left behind.
“I didn’t personally get to know them, partly because of position and the short time they were with my unit,” he said, “but they were my airmen and I will remember their names, their faces and the day of their death.”
Noting that Monday was the 48th federally-recognized Memorial Day, but it had been previously held since 1866 under different names, Cooper said it was fitting that Memorial Day be observed as new life springs up.
“But for those close to those who have perished in the service of freedom, every day is Memorial Day,” Cooper said.
Cooper and Jackie Moses read poems from the wife of a departed soldier and a 19- year old Canadian Air Force Pilot who served in WWII, respectively. Scott Rogers recited Flanders Field, after speaking of the life of Richard Eugene Cole, who served in WWII and died this year at the age of 103, the last of his squadron.
“We have an obligation to carry on our remembrance of those who made possible the liberties we enjoy today,” Rogers said, reminding not to become complacent and drop our guard in times of peace, and to vote in each election.
The Coast Guard Color Guard and VFW Honor Guard also participated.