Ceremony Honors VeteransJun 15, 2023 12:00AM ● By Story by Judy Andrews
Riley Groeschel, Mike Marquette, and Kurt Baird lead the Veterans Parade. Photo by Judy Andrews
FAIR OAKS, CA (MPG) - The 24th Annual Memorial Day Ceremony was held on May 27 at the Fair Oaks Cemetery District. More than 300 visitors and special guests came out to participate in the event that honors fallen soldiers and pays tribute to local veterans. This year’s theme, “History of the Purple Heart,” paid tribute to the men and women who were either wounded or killed in the line of duty while serving their country.
The program kicked off with a parade through cemetery grounds to the presentation area. Flanked by an impressive display of flags, bagpipe players Kurt Baird, Riley Groeschel, and drummer Mike Marquette led the procession followed by members of the American Legion Riders and VFW 6158 Motorcycle Club.
Chairperson Bob Clouse, Fair Oaks Cemetery District Board of Trustees, officiated the program which kicked off with an invocation delivered by Mark Rice, Retired American Legion Commander. Guest dignitaries included Congressman Ami Bera, State Senator Roger Niello, and Sacramento County Supervisor Rich Desmond.
Sacramento native and Purple Heart recipient, Dr. Kevin Cameron, was this year’s guest speaker. After serving nearly 14 years in the U.S. Army, Cameron’s military career ended after he was wounded in action with his military working dog during his last deployment to Iraq.
Cameron spoke about the significance of the Purple Heart and what it means to receive it. “We call it an award, but it’s not an award anyone asks to get. We go out and we do our duty. The Purple Heart represents the memory of what was sacrificed before us. If it weren’t for the veterans who served before me, I would not be here today.”
A portion of the program included a Flag Ceremony conducted by Scouts BSA Troop 380. The retired flag will fly next to the cemetery’s Veterans Memorial Wall in honor of all veterans. For the past 17 years under the direction of Elizabeth Ruygt, Troop 380 has participated in this event over the Memorial Day weekend.
“It gives the Scouts the opportunity to learn the true meaning of Memorial Day,” she said. “It’s their favorite service project and they never waiver on getting involved. They take this project very seriously, and I always receive wonderful comments from veterans on how well and with respect the Scouts do the Flag Ceremony.”
A day or two prior to the Memorial Day Ceremony, residents from Clean and Sober Living in Fair Oaks volunteered their time to place flags on the graves of more than 2,000 veterans buried in the cemetery.
This year, the cemetery dedicated two engraved benches next to the Veteran’s Memorial Wall to Troop 380 and to Clean and Sober Living for being a large part of the service over the years.
The following organizations volunteered their time, expertise, and in-kind donations to make this event possible: Fair Oaks Cemetery District Board of Trustees and Staff, American Legion/Women’s Auxiliary and Riders of Post 383, BSA Troop 380, Clean and Sober Living, Fair Oaks Recreation and Parks District, Orangevale-Fair Oaks Grange, Rotary Club of Fair Oaks, Starbucks – Gold River, VFW Post 6158, and community volunteer cookie bakers.
The Fair Oaks Cemetery District was established in 1902 and is located at 7780 Olive Street, Fair Oaks. Next year’s program is scheduled for May 25 (Saturday before Memorial Day). Veterans and their families, neighbors and community members are welcome to attend.