Well, if I thought there was lots to do last week, we were even busier this week. First, there was a party for Taylor, this is the young lady my younger calls his sweetie. She has studied to be a counselor to high school students and I think that she has chosen the right career for her talents. She is kind and sweet and has a desire to help youngsters as they navigate through the schools and plan their future. She has a mother and father that have guided her on the right path to help her succeed.
As a matter of fact, my bride and I drove out to my son’s place today and enjoyed a great get-together to celebrate her achievement. Got to see some old friends and meet a few new ones and enjoy our Valley’s nice weather.
This being the last few days of May, we have the distinct pleasure to gather at the Gonzales Cemetery and pay homage to the inhabitants of that place of rest. I spoke about it a bit last week, but there are a few things to add. If you have lived in South County for a few years, you know about what I am writing.
The Gonzales American Legion reads the names of the fallen while about a hundred American Flags flutter in our personal breeze. The young folks we have on the firing squad this year are from the Gonzales Explorers, who are led by Cpl. Castillo from our own police department. It is a moving tribute to those who have gone ahead of us.
You are encouraged to drop by, where you will meet friends that you haven’t had a chance to meet yet or catch up with some old friends. You will witness our Volunteer Firing Squad let loose with another 21-gun salute, a gesture that will surely touch your heart. I’m sure your heart will beat a little faster and I’m sure you will remember all who volunteer every year.
Like every year, we have a few veterans present, and I have seen more than a few tears shed by the parents of these high school students who understand what it is to give your life for a Grand Idea. This is the idea that was scorned by the rest of the world when it was discussed by our forefathers. Imagine a country that has been run by a single family or a despot that used his position to control the populace of an entire nation. The idea of a country run by the citizens and voted in by the inhabitants was reviled by those who had used force to control everyone. The folks lying quietly in their last resting place surely understood why they gave their all.
I have been involved with the Firing Squad for at least 25 years in some way. Like the students and the other members of American Legion Post 81, every year it takes on new meaning. Someone somewhere is remembered. My father was 4-F due to his physical impairments, but even if he was limited in some way, he loved to farm and had been told by the recruiters back in his time that his work producing food was as important as carrying a weapon. I have always been as proud as punch of my Dad and asked one day why he never went in the service, and it was explained that farmers were part of the home front. It was pretty heavy stuff for an 11-year-old kid that played Cowboys and Indians more than soldiers.
When I was old enough, I did as my brothers and headed to the recruiting office. It wasn’t so much a gesture of faith in my country as it was a way out of the cotton fields of the San Joaquin Valley. It was later that I met men who had been tested in war and they helped me to understand why we must have a standing Army and I looked to each one as a hero.
Way back when, after my bride and I decided that a small town would be the ideal place to raise our kids, that’s when I met Harold Wolgamott and his family. He was a great guy to know. He told me so many great stories of Gonzales. He seemed to know where the bodies were buried. (That’s a joke.)
If I remember correctly, it was through him I met the Fellows family. They were and are another great family to know. They were all members of the local American Legion. It seems everywhere you look there are stories of longtime residents that made this town a great place to live. In any case, he was always asking me to run for City Council, and one Sunday, at church, I told him if he would help me get all the signatures I needed, I would run.
In the end, he didn’t have to get any signatures for me. The people of Gonzales are so cool they said that they were happy to sign for me. That was the beginning of eight years of learning about politics and my continued love for this great country and community I call home. I had already started helping with the American Legion Firing Squad, although to be honest I didn’t have to work very hard, as the men of the Legion already had that down pat.
In fact, these never tiring men and the ladies of the Auxiliary always seem to be ahead of the need. They take their duties very seriously. I might add that this past weekend the ladies of the Unit 81 Auxiliary won several awards at their last district meeting for the year held here in Gonzales. Kudos to Connie Arrellano, Liz Silva and Sondra Castillo. Also a shoutout to Linda Guzman, who was elected 2nd Vice President for District 28.
I hope you will find the time to drop by the ceremony on Memorial Day at our cemetery. You will get to see a small town in action.