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Soledad honors fallen heroes for Memorial Day

SOLEDAD — American flags, a special ceremony and a guest appearance by Congressman Jimmy Panetta paid tribute to fallen soldiers and military members May 27 at the Soledad Cemetery.

Soledad American Legion Post 32 started off the ceremony with Commander Juan Baltierra, who introduced the placing of the MIA (Missing in Action) chair wrap by Tom Vaughan and Tony Virrueta.

Soledad High School NJROTC presented the colors, and Cynthia Landeros and Valerie Parker sang the national anthem. Following the singing was a demonstration of unarmed drills and armed drills by members of the NJROTC.

Every year a wreath is placed on the statue that remembers all military who were killed in action, missing or have died.

Panetta, who was born and raised in Monterey County, served in the Navy and was deployed to Afghanistan.

“It is very humbling to stand in front of you today at this cemetery, especially on Memorial Day, when we formally recognize and when we remember those who fought and furthered our freedom,” Panetta said.

Panetta spoke about the service to other people is what bonds all Americans together. It is the reason why there are ceremonies, such as Soledad’s, in other cities across America and 26 cemeteries and 29 memorials overseas dedicated to service members, including one of the most visited in Normandy, France.

“To many, war, service and sacrifice can often be seen as numbers, as figures, as concepts, which really does take away how personally that service and sacrifice is to those who fought and the families that endured that fight,” Panetta said. “We must never forget that service and sacrifice is very personal.”

Each branch of the U.S. military — Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Army — had music representing the service, which members stood up and saluted for at the ceremony.