They looked at the names inscribed on the grave markers as American flags placed in front of each grave waved in the morning breeze.
The family was one of many that gathered at the cemetery, 501 W. Schulte Road, on Monday, May 27, to remember men and women who died in military service for their country during Memorial Day ceremonies.
Gazing over the rows of veterans’ graves, Bob Kiffin, 68, said it was important to take his grandchildren to attend the service.
“My dad served in World War II, and it’s important for our grandchildren to learn — want them to see the sacrifices,” he said. “It’s up to our generation to pass it on.”
Blustery winds greeted the crowd of about 400 people and flapped the Americans flags placed by Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and American Heritage Girls during the weekend at the graves of 1,937 veterans buried at the cemetery.
Veterans interred in the Tracy Cemetery range from the Civil War to Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Dewey, who was killed during the Iraq War in 2006.
Vaughn Gates, commander of Tracy Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1537, opened the service by saying that “our gathering is one small spark in the flame of pride.”
Gates said the day was a time to remember all those who had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Rep. Jeff Denham spoke about the “fearless sacrifices” given by veterans and by the men and women fighting the war against terror.
“We need not look beyond our own communities to see the sacrifices our own servicemen have made,” he said.
Members of the community were invited to place wreaths at the grave of the Unknown Veteran to honor those who died defending their country.
Alyssa Heinrich, 12, representing Crossroads Baptist Church, placed one of the wreaths and was grateful for the chance to honor those who fought for her freedom.
“It’s a special day — sort of sad, they gave their lives for us,” Heinrich said. “The men who died for our freedom, they gave us the freedom to worship.”
Heinrich said the day also helps her remember people who are now in uniform.
“I know someone serving in the military today, and it makes me want to keep praying for him,” she said.
Steve Miller, 60, was visiting the gravesite of his grandparents, Roy and Evelyn Miller. Roy Miller fought in World War I and World War II, serving in both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy.
“He did so much,” Miller said. “He enlisted so his kids and grandkids wouldn’t have to fight in a war.”
Miller takes his children to see the gravesite so they understand the sacrifices some have had to make and so they understand the meaning of Memorial Day.
The service at the cemetery ended with the firing of three volleys by a color guard from American Legion Post 172 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1537 and the playing of taps.
A short ceremony was held about an hour later as about 200 people gathered at the Tracy War Memorial next to Lolly Hansen Senior Center, 375 E. Ninth St., to listen to the names of Tracy servicemen killed in action.
The war memorial, dedicated in 1991, bears the names of Tracy residents who died in wars from World War I through the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Veterans Don Ridolfi and George Briggs read each name engraved on the wall and then rang a bell symbolizing their sacrifice.
“Those are 68 names we must remember,” said John Treantos, commander of American Legion Post 172.
Quoting a line from President Abraham Lincoln, Treantos said, “We have to remember those who gave the last full measure of devotion.”
• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.