And every year an individual here in the Valley is recognized as an outstanding supporter for his or her support of the promise of America and the men and women who serve to protect it. The 2011 honoree is a Veteran who is committed to serving other veterans.
On July 30, 2010 the Clovis Cemetery was again the scene of another military funeral. They have become a familiar scene there and across the Central Valley this past decade. The ceremony often includes an American flag draped over the coffin, a flag handed to a loved one with the gratitude of the nation.
Marine Corps veteran Charlie Waters of Clovis understands the grief. He fought in Korea, lost buddies and came home with memories that are still with him sixty years later. And a few days before Memorial Day 2011 he agreed to talk with me about that time in his life. He described the terrain where he fought alongside his fellow Marines and where the North Koreans relentlessly challenged the territory they held, "They would pour through that valley in the middle of the night and hit us. You don't think about that 'til way later", he paused and began to describe the killing fire against the enemy and the loss of his buddies in combat, "You can't let that bother you, and it doesn't at that time. It doesn't."
His photos of those days as a Marine serving in Korea were lost in a fire but his memories and commitment to Veterans and those who still serve is unwavering. And he is being honored on Memorial Day at this year's annual Fresno Memorial Gardens event. It is for what he did then and what he does now. Brian Burry, one of the event's organizers told us, "It's a culmination of all that Charlie's accomplished for veterans; we felt that this was Charlie's time and he would receive it and so we honoring him this year at the Avenue of the Flags."
Charlie Waters is proud to be part of this Memorial Day event. His cast iron commitment to America's military and veterans is unwavering. It is a calling and a grateful nod to those across the decades who didn't make it home as he did.
With tears in his eyes he said "You gotta do something... the ones that paid the price are the ones with the Flags." Memorial Day offers all of us the opportunity to consider the sacrifices made by so many in the defense of their country.
You can learn more about the Valley's veterans and today active duty service members go to my "Red White and True" blog.