Fluttering American flags lined the avenues at Cypress Lawn cemetery Monday as locals gathered to remember America’s fallen soldiers.
Thirty of those flags were donated by local families and once draped the coffins of loved ones who served in the military, according to Selena Peterson, the cemetery’s director of family service. Officials at the 114-year-old cemetery have tallied more than 4,000 soldiers and veterans buried at Cypress Lawn, according to president Kenneth Varner, who said the process of counting those graves is an ongoing one.
“We are the benefactors of their courage and duty,” Peterson said. Cadets from the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps presented a folded flag to Master Sgt. Ayyub Nasir, who served in Iraq.
“We must always remember that there is a purpose behind this country,” Nasir said. “And we must always be prepared to defend it at any time.” Nasir served 12 years as a drill sergeant before being deployed to Kuwait, where his mission included making sure troops had ample supplies around the clock.
A bugler from the El Camino High School band played “Taps” as Peterson read the names of the 24 servicemen and women who were laid to rest at Cypress Lawn this year. White pigeons and doves were released in a gesture of peace.
The afternoon service, attended by more than 100 people, featured a speech by former Assemblyman Lou Papan, a veteran who fought in World War II and the Korean War. He is currently seeking election to the California state Senate.
It also included a prayer from U.S. National Guard chaplain and Lt. Michael Stagnaro, who reminded the audience that the soldiers fighting in today’s wars fight for the same thing veterans in the Civil War and World Wars did: freedom.
“Freedom is not just something to cherish, but it’s also something for the world to experience,” Stagnaro said. “Greatness is found in the men and women who have given the ultimatesacrifice.”
Elsewhere on the Peninsula, hundreds of San Francisco residents turned out at the San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio for The City’s 138th annual Memorial Day ceremony.
The service was joined by the commander and crew of the U.S.S. Pinkney, a battleship that was serving in Yemen in 2001 when another ship, the U.S.S. Cole, was struck by a small boat carrying explosives, killing 17 Americans. The Pinckney was stationed off the coast of The City today in honor of Memorial Day.
Examiner Staff Writer Sajid Farooq
contributed to this report.