More than 150 people paid their respects on Memorial Day at Roeding Park in central Fresno while listening to the deafening gunshots of a 21-gun salute and the warm tones of a bugle call.
“We’re very fortunate each year to be able to gather here and assemble to honor the legacy of our brave, unselfish heroes,” said Korean War veteran Kenneth Takeuchi, who led the ceremony at Roeding Park’s Japanese War Memorial. “Those who served without fear paid the ultimate price and sacrificed to preserve our precious land, hopes and dreams.
“The service this morning was started 65 years ago by the good veterans of the Hanford Nisei Liberty Post 5869 and later joined by the Sierra Nisei Post 8499 as a tribute to veterans dead of all wars,” said Takeuchi, who is an Army veteran in the Sierra Nisei Post.
“And of course, the reason we do it is because of the 29 names there,” Takeuchi said, pointing to the inscriptions on the monument. “There’s 24 from World War II, two from the Korean War and three from the Vietnam War.”
Elsewhere in the Valley, Memorial Day events were held at the Kingsburg Cemetery, Clovis Veterans Memorial Building, Fresno Memorial Gardens, Floral Memorial Cemetery in Selma, at the Downtown Farmerville Parade and the Visalia District Cemetery. Veterans were also remembered Sunday at the San Joaquin National Cemetery in Santa Nella.
“We’re lucky that we’re able to talk about our heroes,” Takeuchi said. “It’s important that we never forget what they did – sacrificed their lives to make this country so great.”
Mae Morita came to watch the ceremony and honor the members of the Nisei Veterans of Foreign Wars posts.
“I try to come annually because I feel we owe so much to our soldiers,” said Morita. “Especially of the Japanese-American group – they volunteered out of the internment camps, and I was in there, too.
“There’s not too many of us left that served our time in the camps,” Morita said. “My husband received a gold medal posthumously and he volunteered despite his parents being in the camps. I just feel I owe a debt of gratitude to all of the veterans – they did a lot for us.”
The ceremony included the laying of 17 wreaths, a memorial address by The Rev. Akiko Miyake-Stoner, a benediction and a 21-gun salute presented by Navy Junior ROTC students from Hanford West High School.
“The 21-gun salute is a way to honor the dead,” said John Wix, the senior naval science instructor at Hanford High West. “People who have given their life in the performance of duty or a special person.
“It’s seven shooters, three volleys,” Wix said. “But it’s meant to pay respect to them for their sacrifice.”
Because of the equipment and training required, Hanford West High is one of the few Junior ROTC units in the Valley capable of doing a 21-gun salute, Wix said. His students have performed the salute at the Roeding Park ceremony every Memorial Day for the past 14 years.
“We shoot the 1903 Springfield rifle with .30-06 blanks,” Wix said. “They train a lot – the whole thing is about being in sequence together, so when they pull the trigger, it’s seven rifles, but it sounds like one shot.”
Takeuchi, who has been part of the Sierra Nisei Post for decades, was happy to see the number of young people at the ceremony, including groups of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
“They are the ones that are going to keep this going for another 65 years,” he said. “Veterans – either World War II, Korean War or Vietnam War – they are at the age now that one of these days they won’t be around here.”
Hanford West High sophomore and bugler Taylor Radcliffe, 16, played taps following the salute.
“I’ve had lots of close family friends who were in the military, and there’s people that I’ve lost that were in the military,” Radcliffe said. “It’s nice to be able to have a specific day when you remember them. You should remember them every day, but it’s nice to have a day where everyone remembers those who have fallen even if you didn’t know them.
“It’s amazing the amount of people that sit down and pay respect to the veterans who have fought for our country,” Radcliffe said. “It’s beautiful.”