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Rising to the occasion Richard Pena | Sat, May 14 2011 12:00 PM

Back in my growing up years it was known as Decoration Day. The last Monday in May was set aside originally to honor the Civil War dead from the Union army.

Later it was amended to honor the dead from any war and I think it included those who fought for the South in the Civil War. They, you know, were Americans also.

Somewhere in there they changed the name of the day to Memorial Day but maintained the last Monday of May as the legal holiday to honor the war dead.

In most of the major cities in the country it was a big thing. There were parades and there were ceremonies, usually at some grave site, where wreaths were laid, taps were played and there was a gun salute.

San Antonio, where I grew up, was one of these cities. Being an army town it staged a big parade that featured army instruments of warfare, tanks and wheeled artillery, and other things of that nature. It also showcased the musical side of the military, those big brass bands that could beat out Souza with the best.

There was also a generous array of uniformed fighting men from past wars. I recall in one of those first parades seeing veterans of the Civil War, not many, it is true, but a handful or so, hanging on to the bitter end.

We bring this up at this time because Bonita, for many years, has observed Memorial Day with a bit more than a passing nod.

Due to the joint efforts of two important entities in the community, Memorial Day is properly observed. Some years ago Branch 61 of the Fleet Reserve Association, based in Chula Vista, joined with Glen Abbey, the large and sprawling cemetery in Bonita and initiated the Memorial Day ceremony that has become a welcome staple in the community.

Ronda Thompson, a representative from the cemetery supplied me with much information about this community activity.

The ceremony will commence at 11 a.m. at the cemetery in the vicinity of the Chapel of the Roses. Thompson tells me that the service will bring community leaders and veterans organizations together to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for this country. The service will begin with the presentation of colors and will feature the playing of the National Anthem and Taps as well as a rifle salute and a fly-over.

The guest speaker for the ceremony is an active duty U.S. Navy medical officer, Commander Daniel Gramins.

Commander Gramins was born in Illinois and educated at Georgetown University in Washington where he graduated in 1989. He received his medical training at the same institution and earned his degree and commission 1993.

He received much training in other facets of medicine, notably cardiology, and had various duty stations both with the Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. He is the only surgeon in the Navy who has achieved board certification in both thoracic and vascular surgery. He has numerous military decorations that include the Meritorious Service Medal.

Doing much of the legwork for this event is the Fleet Reserve. Headed by past president Gus Hermes, the unit will be responsible for the setting up and the smooth running of the events.

The Chula Vista branch was instituted in 1947 with 145 charter members. The branch presently has more than 1,000 members. The branch, like many others, participates in various community projects, both patriotic and social. They conduct their business and social affairs from their location, a storefront on Third Avenue that they purchased in 1965. The Memorial Day event is their principal project.

We have attended this Memorial Day event in previous years. It is a moving and well orchestrated ceremony. The general public is invited. Those attending are asked to come well before the eleven o'clock starting time to assure seating.

The community owes much to Glen Abbey and the Fleet Reserve.

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