Memorial Day ceremonies set
THE ANNUAL MEMORIAL DAY ceremonies attract more than 1,000 people to the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Park.
The Sonoma Valley Joint Memorial Day observance will take place this year at 11 a.m. Monday, May 30.
This year marks the 53rd time this annual hometown event has taken place. The location will once again be the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Park, located north of the Plaza and adjacent to the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building.
Attracting an audience of more than 1,000 people annually, the Sonoma Valley Memorial Day Observance has become the preeminent event for local veterans, their families and friends. Seating is limited and the weather is normally hot and sunny this time of year. Therefore it is highly recommended to arrive early and wear a hat or sun visor.
In keeping with a popular tradition that began seven years ago, all veterans are invited to wear their best military uniforms (or appropriate attire) and participate in the grand march at the opening of the ceremony. Veterans who want to participate in this grand march are requested to arrive at 10:30 a.m. sharp beneath the flag of their particular branch of the armed forces in the parking lot.
This year, special seating will be reserved during the ceremony for local U.S. veterans who fought in the liberation of France during the World War II. For specific details, they should contact Dan Parker of the local chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars (Bear Flag Post 1943) at 938-3543 or Gary Magnani of the local American Legion (Jack London Post 489), at 996-8386.
The Master of Ceremonies will be local Attorney Carl H. "Chip" Allen who is a former U.S. Navy submarine officer and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.
The guest of honor and keynote speaker will be Romain Serman, the consul general of France in San Francisco. He is a former foreign affairs advisor to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Prior to his current assignment, he was secretary general in charge of organizing the Summit of Heads of State and the France-Africa Ministerial meeting in 2009. He also served as the first secretary to the French permanent mission to the United Nations in New York from 2003 to 2007.
During the ceremony, he will be paying a special homage to local U.S. veterans who fought in the liberation of France during the World War II.
The Rev. John S. Crews, the executive director of Hanna Boys Center and a retired U.S. Navy captain and chaplain, will give the invocation.
The Rev. Peadar A. Dalton will give the benediction.
The Sonoma Hometown Band directed by Justin Enright (with narrator Butch Engle), along with vocal soloist Shannon Howlett will provide patriotic music. Max Simonet, a local Sonoma Valley High School graduate will be singing the French National Anthem "La Marseillaise" in tribute to the guest of honor. Lindsay Hall and John Noonan will play bagpipes.
The U.S. Marine Corps Santa Rosa Recruiting Station will provide the official color guard and the California National Guard honor guard, will provide a rifle salute detail. The Civil Air Patrol Cadet Color Guard (Redwood Empire Composite Squadron 157) will provide the youth color guard. Laurie Gallian, the mayor of the City of Sonoma, will give a special proclamation.
The Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Jordan Libby, Miss Sonoma County 2011. She will also sing "God Bless America." The members of the Temple Lodge No. 14 of Free and Accepted Masons in Sonoma will be the official event ushers.
The ceremony will conclude with an aerial fly-over by Sonoma Sky Park and Sonoma Valley Airport aviators honoring all military aviators, especially Five-Star Gen. Henry H. (Hap) Arnold) the father of the U.S. Air Force, who lived in the Sonoma Valley following the end of the World War II.
Immediately following the ceremony, an "All-American Picnic" featuring grilled hamburgers and hot dogs will be served free of charge at the veterans building. The Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley will grill the hamburger and hotdogs. Although the picnic is complimentary to veterans and their families and friends, a "Star of Honor" pledge drive will take place during the picnic for donations needed to maintain and improve the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Park and assist toward the expense of applying the names of local deceased veterans to the Star of Honor.
As most local veterans are aware, the Star of Honor fountain, which was unveiled during this event seven years ago, is now the centerpiece for the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Park. Designed by the late Sonoma artist Robert Behrens, the black granite walls of this fountain will eventually contain the etched names of all deceased Sonoma Valley veterans from the American Revolution to 2076.
This event would not be possible without the help of the many local citizens, organizations and businesses who are volunteering their time, money, goods and services. A planning committee has also been meeting for months behind the scenes to ensure that this event will be a success in 2011. The members of this group are local residents who represent every major veteran organization located within the Sonoma Valley. They are: Bryan Aubin, Lt. Col. Theodore Chenoweth, USMC (Ret.) Ruth (Parks) Chambers, Robert Leonard, Gary Magnani, Lt. Col. Dennis Meredith, USA (Ret.), Dr. Timothy Norman, Dan Parker, James Parks, Leighton Parks, Bob Smith, Lt. Col. Don Stevens, USAF (Ret.), Fred Unsworth and David Wishingrad.