Like all other American men my age, I registered for the draft when I turned 18 at the end of my senior year in high school. We haven’t really had a draft since 1973, but my draft board sent me a “Greetings …” in 1961.
The Vietnam War was just beginning to heat up. As my group was winding up the physical exams and filling out some papers, we were told we could expect to be called up in a “matter of weeks” as they put it. I already had my bachelor’s degree and was single. I was working on my teaching credential by this time. I had no excuse not to serve if called right away.
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So upon leaving the draft facility, I drove directly to the Navy recruiting office in Fresno and signed up for the U.S. Navy. I would eventually spend four years as a sailor, half that time on a troop transport and the rest with an assault boat squadron. I also had a little time attending reserve meetings before and after active duty.
I was never in harm’s way. I was never in a combat area. The closest I got to Vietnam was Okinawa and the Philippines.
I was proud to have served.
And I came away with a deep admiration for those who join the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force or the Coast Guard.
I’m proud of the efforts people here on the Central Coast take to honor their military, especially here in Atascadero.
A group of volunteers designed and built the Faces of Freedom Veterans Memorial in a corner of Atascadero Lake Park. Dedicated in November 2008, the memorial recognizes and honors the service of anyone in the military and especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. Names on the wall are of the men and women who called San Luis Obispo County home.
Each year since 2008, the organization has put on a moving tribute to the military. It will happen again this Memorial Day, starting at noon. Memorial Board Chairman Col. Bill Hatch said the guest speaker will be Mark Bailey, a graduate of Atascadero High School. He served in Vietnam and was awarded a Silver Star with valor, Bronze Star with valor and three Purple Hearts.
Atascadero VFW Post 2814 will also hold a service at the Atascadero District Cemetery at 11 a.m.
I have recently learned about the Lost at Sea Ceremony, which has been held at the Cayucos Pier since 2002. Ron Janney, who chairs the Lost at Sea Committee, said the program will begin at 3 p.m., six bells to sailors, or 1500 to the rest of the military world.
This moving ceremony pays tribute to all those lost at sea, and not only military veterans but civilians as well.
“It is a meaningful experience for all those who participate,” Janney told me.
It all ends with the singing of “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” the Navy hymn, and a missing man formation flyover. That same flyover will begin the noon services for Atascadero’s.
Memorial Day ceremonies around SLO County
Here is a list of Memorial Day events being held in San Luis Obispo County. All events take place Monday, May 29. All are free, not including barbecues that follow.
San Luis Obispo County
Historical military aircraft will perform flyovers during Memorial Day ceremonies throughout San Luis Obispo County. Organized by Estrella Warbirds Museum of Paso Robles. 805-674-2907.
The flyover schedule is as follows:
- 11 a.m., Paso Robles District Cemetery, 45 Nacimiento Lake Drive
- 11:04 a.m., Templeton District Cemetery, 100 Templeton Road
- 11:08 a.m., Pine Mountain Cemetery, 1 Cemetery Road, Atascadero
- 11:12 a.m., Santa Margarita, 606 E. Pozo Road
- 11:24 a.m., San Luis Cemetery, 2890 South Higuera St., San Luis Obispo
- 11:30 a.m., Los Osos Valley Mortuary and Memorial Park, 2260 Los Osos Valley Road
- Noon, Faces of Freedom Veterans Memorial, 9029 Morro Road, Atascadero for Atascadero
- 1:35 p.m., Avila Beach Golf Course, 6464 Ana Bay Drive
- 4 p.m., Cayucos Pier
- 11 a.m. at Pine Mountain Cemetery, 1 Cemetery Road off Highway 41. Ceremony includes guest speaker. 805-466-3305.
- Noon at Faces of Freedom Veterans Memorial, 9029 Morro Road. Ceremony followed by music and a community barbecue. 805-462-1267 or facesoffreedommemorial.org
- 11 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St. Ceremony followed by barbecue. 805-927-3624.
- 1 to 4 p.m. at the Cayucos Pier. Service in memory of U.S. military veterans and those lost at sea. 805-720-3173.
- 10:30 a.m. music, 11 a.m. ceremony, at Los Osos Valley Mortuary and Memorial Park, 2260 Los Osos Valley Road. Ceremony includes guest speaker Mike Belford. Followed by a barbecue. 805-528-1500.
- 11 a.m. at Paso Robles District Cemetery, 45 Nacimiento Lake Drive. Ceremony includes an honor guard, patriotic songs, prayers and a speech by San Luis Obispo County Supervisor John Peschong.
- 11 a.m. at the Pismo Beach Pier promenade. U.S. Army veteran Kevin M. Rice, former Pismo Beach city manager, will deliver a keynote address. Also in store are a presentation of colors by Pismo Beach Color Guard, a wreath presentation and patriotic readings by Warren Addison. 805-773-7004.
San Luis Obispo
- 11 a.m. to noon at San Luis Cemetery, 2890 South Higuera St. Ceremony includes patriotic music by Pacific Horizon Chorus and a recitation of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address by Stew Jenkins. Frank Rowan will read a Civil War farewell letter accompanied by violinist Sol Rudnick. 805-441-1405.
- 10 a.m. at Templeton District Cemetery, 100 Templeton Road. Memorial service includes a speaker, color guard, bell ringing and gun salute. 805-434-1402.