Fellow Americans paid tribute to veterans 'gone but never forgotten' Memorial Day (May 26) across the country and Eastern Madera County.
At Oakhill Cemetery in Oakhurst, a special service was held in the Little Church on the Hill, led by Pastor Sam Tillmon of North Fork's Calvary Chapel of the Sierra. In addition to honoring veterans, Tillmon's presentation was special, for it was on the steps of the church, that he proposed to his wife Bethany six years ago.
"Holidays like this one beg for questions," Tillmon said to those who gathered in the Little Church. "What are all the flags on all the graves for? Why do we get a three day weekend? Why the special service in the cemetery? Memorials are for remembering, and reminding, and teaching you can tell your children that brave people fought and died so that they could be free."
Tillmon said memorials are for children to remember the great things God has done, and one of the great things he's done is he has put courage, wisdom, and love into the hearts of some people so that the rest of us can live in peace.
"I will celebrate Memorial Day as long as there are men and women who resemble Christ, because Christ is worth celebrating," Tillmon said. "I will honor sacrifice as long as there are men and women who follow in Christ's footsteps and lay down their lives for their friends. Memorial Day is a holiday worth having in the United States because it allows us to elevate sacrifice to the level it should be on we honor it, cherish it, appreciate it, and are thankful for it. I'm thankful for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for my sins, and I'm thankful for the sacrifice of American service men and women for my freedom."
Those who filled the church, sang four hymns "Nothing but the Blood," "Come thou Fount," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "How Great is our God" along with God Bless America.
Tillmon said he was honored to be asked to officiate the Memorial Day service.
"There's no other way I'd rather be spending Memorial Day," Tillmon said.
Following the church service, the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces were honored by members of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Marine Corps League Griswold Detachment 1121 Honor Guard, including a volley of three rifle-shots in honor of fallen members of the military, and the Taps. Griswold Honor Guard members included Bud Russell, Jarrett Dean, Jim Winney, Gary Powell, Harrison Dedmond, Angie Pizelo, Chaplain Richard Lamontagne and presenter Jerry Bosworth.
Bosworth, a Marine and Vietnam veteran representing the VFW and the Marine Corps League, spoke to the gathering of over 100 outside the church.
"This day was established to honor and respect those who fought to protect the liberties that our founding fathers proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and that were thoughtfully and carefully framed in the Constitution of the United States," Bosworth said. "To those who died securing peace and freedom to those who served in conflict to protect our land, and sacrificed their dreams to preserve the ope of our nation keeping America the land of the free we owe out thanks and our honor. It is important to not only recognize their service but to respect their devotion to duty and to ensure that the purpose for which they fought will never be forgotten."
Bosworth said the day was very solemn for him.
"People I knew died defending our freedom" Bosworth said. "We have members of all the services that we need to focus on today as we remember those from past conflicts."
Between 5 and 6:30 a.m., more than 200 small American flags were placed on the graves of veterans by Cub Scout Pack 341. The well-kept cemetery also featured "The Avenue of Flags," comprised of large casket flags honoring area veterans.