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Honoring those who served
May 29, 2012, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

Heather Murtagh/Daily Journal Left, Jack McClaskey, sergeant from the 1st Marine Division, salutes as members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division pass by during a Memorial Day service held at Golden Gate Cemetery in San Bruno Monday.

Veterans donning both uniforms and civilian clothes saluted as flags rustled in the wind during the presentation of colors at Golden Gate Cemetery yesterday to start a service in remembrance of those who gave their lives defending American ideals.

Elected officials, volunteers and children joined the veterans for a presentation for Memorial Day yesterday in San Bruno. Seats were filled, families huddled together on the grassy hillside and others stood as those who have fallen defending our nation were remembered through words, music and prayer. Red, white and blue took over the Golden Gate Cemetery which had more than 112,700 flags waving during the ceremony.

Col. Joseph McGee, brigade commander, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, said Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember that not everyone’s bravery is not challenged in the same ways as those who have served. However, everyone will similarly be challenged in life to make the right decision even when it isn’t the popular one. Doing so, he said, would be an act to truly remember the sacrifice by those who are buried in San Bruno.

Unique to this year’s gathering was a large number of people who are currently enlisted. On Sunday, San Mateo hosted a parade to honor the 40th anniversary of a welcome home parade in the city for returning Vietnam veterans back in 1972 for the Adopted Sons of the 101st Airborne, known as the "Screaming Eagles.” As a result, many current and past members of the unit along with those currently serving on the USS Nimitz CVN-68, who had helped set up the service and guide traffic.

Rabbi Valerie Joseph, who gave the invocation, said it is important to carry forward the love, honor and sense of duty of those whom have passed after serving their country.

Daly City Police officer Peter Skeehan, who served eight years in the U.S. Navy as a SEAL, spoke of the family-like connection those who serve together create. Those experiences, he added, can often make transitioning back to civilian life a challenge.

Remembering those who have served started over 140 years ago.

On May 5, 1868, Gen. John Logan, in his capacity as commander in chief of the veterans’ organization Grand Army of the Republic, issued a proclamation that "Decoration Day” be observed nationwide. It was observed for the first time on May 30 that same year. The date was chosen since it was not the anniversary of a battle. Memorial Day was first used in 1882 and became more common after World War II. It was not declared with the official name under federal law until 1967.

During the service, Kathy McCall, director of Golden Gate National Cemetery, said renovations were in the works to place wrought iron fencing on El Camino Real and Sneath Lane, which currently has a chain-link fence. In addition, the ceremony spot would soon be upgraded.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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