SOLEDAD — Soledad residents, American Legion members, current military members, the Soledad High School Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) and more remembered and honored the fallen soldiers during Memorial Day at the Soledad Cemetery.
American Legion Post 32 Commander Emile Glenny began the ceremony by recognizing the POW (Prisoner of War) and MIAs (Missing in Action) from World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War by placing a cloth over a chair.
Soledad High School’s NJROTC prepared and presented drills for the day before presenting the colors.
The guest speaker was U.S. Army Vietnam veteran Mike Boggiatto. Boggiatto was born and raised in Salinas and attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
“This is a day on which we honor those who died while serving this country in uniform,” Boggiatto said. “This country has been involved in a number of conflicts in the 242-year history. The thing that amazed me was that if you add up all the combat deaths and all the associated deaths during those conflicts, there are over 1,300,000 people who’ve died in service to this country.”
Boggiatto said Monterey County overall has approximately 400,000 people, a third of the population who has died in wars.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to a lot of people for their service to this country and for keeping us free,” Boggiatto said. “Fifty years ago, a 21-year-old soldier embarked on a journey that took him from his home in Minnesota through Fort Poke, La., to Travis Airforce Base, all the way to Vietnam.”
The journey was 9,000 miles, arriving at a replacement depot in Vietnam in early January 1968. The Minnesota soldier was sent to his unit as a mortar specialist. Later, the same soldier volunteered to serve as a door gunner on a Huey helicopter.
“The soldier’s luck ran out in the dark early hours of April 23,1969,” Boggiatto said.
The helicopter ran into another helicopter, both hitting the ground and bursting into flames. All eight crew members died. The crash took down 15 Vietnamese soldiers as well.
Boggiatto met the soldier when they were both going through training at Fort Poke.