What a month! There are so many things that have to be done during this month. Of course, if you live in Gonzales, you know this is the month that the whole town turns out to honor the men and women who gave their all for our country over the years. If you haven’t attended one of these somber occasions, I encourage you to make a little trip north to the Gonzales Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 29, at 9 a.m. to hear the names.
The names of the men and women that have given their all to our country are recited, bringing tears to the eyes of many, myself included. Practically the entire town turns out to hear those names of the men and women that are spending the rest of eternity in our little corner of the world. The names are not just the names of the interred. One hears the names of the families that still live in our little corner of heaven.
After those names are read, all are invited to the American Legion building to pick up a chicken dinner. The proceeds of the lunch are used to help support the American Legion with veteran programs and school scholarships for the youth.
Just two days ago, I was honored to present two scholarships of $1,000 each to Bryan Mata and Stephanie Garcia. These two high school students worked hard to deserve their goals. I want to point out that there are many programs sponsored by the local American Legion Post 81. I would encourage any student that needs help or financial assistance, they have only to contact a member of the Legion and these programs can be explained.
I have spoken with students that have inquired about the scholarships and they always speak of the fun they have learning about the workings of our government and the friends they make from other Legion Posts. They always point out that they have gained self confidence and want to learn more. All members of our local American Legion Post 81 take great pride in watching the students grow into adulthood.
Attending the Memorial Service is a great way to help understand what so many have given to protect our freedom and our way of life. I encourage everyone to turn out for the day either by helping place the flags that fly at the cemetery or by assisting when those same flags have to be taken down. I might point out that our very own American Legion Auxiliary, Unit 81, is a big part of the day’s festivities. Also, it is worth turning out just to see the flags that the American Legion places around the cemetery blowing in our valley wind. Cars driving by on Highway 101 honk their horn to let us know that they share our love of our country.
After the names are read and to offer a final honor to those who cannot hear the words any longer, a very somber 21 gun salute is fired by the Legion firing squad. The members of the squad are local men and women who take great pride in their actions. It takes the work of many volunteers to make the Memorial Day possible. These are the men and women that have served in some way to the honor of the United States. Perhaps not in a war, but by volunteering to make this special day their personal gift of honor to those who have given their all.
This past week was special to me as it was Mother’s Day. My beautiful wife and I wanted to take a few moments out of our usual busy days and honor her mother while I honored my bride. I decided to take her for a drive. A drive to a location she knew very little about and I had grown up going to with my Dad and Mom.
Perhaps you may have been there at some time in your life. I’m writing about Avila Beach. This was such a cool place to visit when I was a young man. My Dad would climb around the eastern shore popping Abalone off the rocks and I would be allowed to carry the sack we put them in. I’m pretty sure that my Pop was taking a few too many, but what did I know? I was maybe 8 years old and I was helping my Dad, so I plead the fifth.
The beach was a wonderful place to swim. We didn’t know that at the time the oil wells that were to the western side of the town were leaking oil and that the beaches would be closed, and sometime in the future the State would require the oil companies to clean the sand. This was done by taking the sand out and replacing it with fresh clean sand.
The oily sand is gone and the beach is very clean now. Plus the boardwalk is full of little shops that have any kind of souvenir you might want to buy. Bands play and restaurants line the walkway. We stayed at a really cool hotel called Avila La Fonda. It was like we were at home. The employees were so attentive and there was food provided all during the day. I’m not being paid by the hotel, but I can tell you that we will be returning soon.
I hope to see you at the Cemetery on the 29th. I know you will feel as I did that simply showing up is the least you can do to pay homage to those who are no longer able to give their love and support. There are only a few days during the year when I feel a little extra of my actions will help those who are alone. I don’t know a lot of the folks that are permanently sleeping in our final home, but of those that I know I owe them thanks for their actions. Why not come out and give thanks to those who no longer can?