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A time to honor heroes

The grounds of Fallbrook’s two cemeteries will be the gathering places on two different days this Memorial Day weekend to honor war heroes of the past and present.

The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War will host their Memorial Day ceremony at Odd Fellows Cemetery on Saturday, May 29 at 10 a.m. The cemetery is located at the corner of Clemmens Lane and Alturus Road and is a pioneer cemetery known for being the 1904 resting place of William Pittenger, who was one of the first Congressional Medal winners of the Civil War. The group will be honoring Union Veteran, Lt. William Crombie, who is an ancestor to the 2010 Fallbrook Historical Society Pioneer of the Year, Janice Bricker.

The Fallbrook Masonic Cemetery will be the site of the community’s traditional Memorial Day remembrance on Monday, May 31, at 11 a.m. The Masonic Cemetery, located at 1010 Hillcrest Lane, has been the setting for a community Memorial Day celebration that dates back to 1922. Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1924 and its Ladies Auxiliary have continued that tradition for decades.

The guest speaker for the VFW-sponsored event will be Lt. Col Maurice Bernier, who is retired after serving 25 years in the USMC. He said the Memorial Day event is a very humbling experience.

“The whole concept of Memorial Day is to remember those service members who have given their time for our freedom,” said Bernier.

Bernier also said the ceremony is a yearly opportunity to get together as a community and give thanks to and remember those who have passed on.

The patriotic atmosphere is said to be remarkable as hundreds of tiny American Flags wave from their spots atop veterans’ graves and the entryway to the ceremony area.

The flag at the cemetery will be flown at half-staff in respect to those being remembered.

William Byrne, commander of VFW Post 1924, is helping organize the Memorial Day event and said that some active duty Marines will ride their Harleys as part of the ceremony.

“It just looks so sharp as they come into the driveway with all the American flags,” Byrne said, adding that the flags line the entire driveway.

“It’s really remarkable,” he said.

Two people are scheduled to play the popular echo Taps on their trumpets. The Fallbrook Chorale will perform patriotic songs and the winner of the VFW’s youth essay contest will also give a speech.

A total of 85 students entered the essay contest collectively in the junior high and high school categories, according to VFW Post 1924 Ladies Auxiliary president Anne Richter.

Wade Colburn, a senior at Fallbrook High School won $500 and first place for his 2010 essay that was submitted by CD and had to last between three and five minutes.

“He’s won three years in a row,” Richter said, adding that the entries are judged anonymously.

Skill, determination and American pride all factor in on why Colburn is so well-spoken. Colburn said he has a background in leadership, is in his tenth year of 4-H, fourth year of Future Farmers of America (FFA), and participates in a speech club.

“I’ve been looking for speech contests and essay contests to enter,” he said. “I enjoy writing.”

Colburn’s speech is titled ‘Does America Still Have Heroes?’ and compares the everyday American hero with the traits of Superman.

In his winning essay, Colburn wrote: “The true American hero is that average man who steps up in a time of crisis and takes leadership of the situation by risking his or her own life. This hero, who may not be wearing a skin tight blue overall suit with a red cape, is wearing the ‘S’ insignia within his heart, embodying the fight for truth, justice and the American way.”

Colburn also recognizes Mr. Charles “Poke” Stiers, who he said is a “friend and role model” and fought in the Vietnam War.

“He risked his own life to allow his platoon to reach safety. This decision cost him a bullet wound and a struggle to remain hidden from enemy hands, but gained him respect from others, a purple heart and the accolade of being an American Hero,” Colburn wrote.

Boy Scout troop leader Chuck Reeder, of troop 737 in Fallbrook, said that the Boy Scouts will arrive at the Masonic Cemetery at 7:30 a.m. on Memorial Day Monday to begin placing flags on all veterans’ graves, and lining the driveway and memorial service area with flags. The Girl Scouts also help with the flags, he said.

Reeder said that at the end of the ceremony a Boy Scout will raise up the flag that’s being flown at half-staff.

The Fallbrook Garden Club will provide flowers for placement on graves.

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