Red, white and blue flowers could be seen across the Porterville Cemetery Monday morning as well as 1,267 large American flags waving in the breeze during the 2021 Memorial Day Observance presented by Porterville American Legion Post 20.
An approximate 500 people attended the program which was emceed by Mike Smith, Commander, American Legion Post 20. Smith started the program by thanking the community for making the Memorial Day Avenue of the Flags possible.
“We are gathered today to remember the more than one million brave Americans who have given their lives in the fight for freedom and democracy,” Smith said.
“With the pandemic affecting us all in different ways, we were all affected in one common aspect. We were not able to hold this very important observance.”
Though small flags were placed on veterans' graves, there was no official service nor were there large flags up in 2020.
Smith then shared a few statistics and facts of how and why the day of remembrance began.
The program continued with the Posting of Colors.
With veterans rendering a salute and most community members placing their hand over their heart, almost all who were able to stand, did so proudly Monday morning as the National Colors by American Legion Post 20 Honor Guard raised the Flag of Honor in memory of Mr. Ed Flory, a member of the American Legion for 75 years who passed in 2019.
With Monache High School choir members singing the “National Anthem,” the program continued with “Reveille” played by Tom Bear, and the American Legion Post 20 Color Guard and California Cadet Corps parading the Avenue of Flags.
“We're here today remembering the men and women in uniform who never made it back home,” said the Veterans Homecoming Queen / Miss Porterville Madison Chapman.
She talked about never forgetting those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and called the cemetery, with its many American flags, “Hallowed grounds.”
An invocation by Eddie Orosco, Post 20 chaplain, and the presentation of a memorial cross by Auxiliary Unit 20, and memorial wreath, by the Children of American Revolution followed by Monache choir members singing “Sleep, Soldier Boy” before the microphone was turned over to guest keynote speaker Roger Phillips, Past Post 20 Commander.
Phillips started by talking about Mr. Flory — his best friend in the Legion, his hero, and World War II Veteran, before talking about the United States Constitution.
“I believe that what separates our nation from all others is that our highest law of the land, the Constitution begins with the words, 'We the People,'” Phillips said. “Never before in the history of this world has there been a government run by the people.”
Phillips quoted from the Declaration of Independence, including the Preamble to the Constitution, before ending with some words from President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
“So simple. So beautiful. So meaningful,” Phillips said. “Who can say it any better than that? I couldn't. We're truly blessed.”
And as an Armed Forces Medley played, veterans of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines walked forward to be recognized during the playing of music of their respective branch.
The program ended with seven members of American Legion Post 20 offering a Three-round Volley Salute and the playing of “Taps” from two separate areas by Mike Smith and Tom Bear.
As the program ended, many could be seen wiping away at tears as they remembered loved ones, or reflecting on graves.