For the 61st time, Sonoma Valley Joint Memorial Day Observance will be held in Sonoma, a patriotic ceremony with moments of somber reflection and uplifting patriotism.
The hometown tradition, which draws more than 1,000 people annually, begins at Sonoma Veterans Memorial Park on Monday, May 27 at 11 a.m.
All veterans are invited to wear their best military uniforms (or appropriate attire) and participate in the Grand March to open the ceremony.
The guest of honor and keynote speaker is 4-Star Admiral Timothy J. Keating, U.S. Navy (Retired). A Naval Aviator, Admiral Keating retired in December 2009 after serving as the Commander, United States Pacific Command, headquartered in Hawaii. His area of responsibility included over 3.4 billion people and half the surface of the earth. While in command, Admiral Keating visited over 30 countries.
Prior to his tour at Pacific Command, Admiral Keating was Commander of the United States Northern Command, responsible for protecting the United States homeland. Previous tours include service as the Director of the Joint Staff in the Pentagon, command of the United States Fifth Fleet and all naval forces in the United States Central Command headquartered in the Kingdom of Bahrain, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Plans, Policy and Operations) in the Pentagon, command of the USS Kitty Hawk Battle Group stationed in Japan.
A pilot, Keaton has accumulated over 5,000 hours of flight time in tactical fighter and attack jets and has landed on Navy aircraft carriers over 1,200 times.
The Reverend Peadar A. Dalton, who is an active member and former President of the Sonoma Valley Ministerial Association, will give both the Invocation and the Benediction.
The members of Temple Lodge No. 14 of Free and Accepted Masons in Sonoma will be the official event ushers. The Pledge of Allegiance will be jointly led by Rhiannon Jones (Miss Sonoma County 2019) and Emma Chen (Sonoma County’s Outstanding Teen, 2019). Sonoma’s own 14-year-old vocalist sensation Fernanda Alvarez will sing the Star-Spangled Banner” and Cindy Daffurn will sing “God Bless America.
The Sonoma Hometown Band directed by John Patridge (with narrator Butch Engle) will provide additional patriotic music throughout the ceremony. Johnathan Han will play bagpipes. Bugler Chris Severson will play Taps. The U.S. Marines from the Santa Rosa Recruiting Station will provide the official Color Guard and the California National Guard “Honor Guard” will provide a Rifle Salute detail.
The Civil Air Patrol Cadet Color Guard (Redwood Empire Composite Squadron 157) will provide the youth Color Guard. A special Proclamation will be given by the Sonoma City Council.
To honor the memory of 5-Star General Henry “Hap” H. Arnold, who founded the U.S. Air Force and made the Sonoma Valley his home following the Second World War, a Military Aerial Fly-Over has been scheduled at the commencement of the ceremony at 11 a.m. A second Aerial Fly-Over consisting of various military inspired civilian aircraft flown by the Sonoma Sky Park Aviators will conclude the ceremony.
Immediately following the ceremony, the annual “All-American Picnic” jointly hosted by the Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley and the Rotary Club of Sonoma Sunrise will be served free of charge at the Veterans Building. Members of both local Rotary Clubs will grill the hamburgers and hotdogs in honor of the memory of the late Howard (Howie) Ehret, a retired U.S. Navy Captain who was a highly energetic community leader, volunteer and Rotarian. The Rotarians will be greatly assisted during the picnic by Ruth Parks Chambers (who has largely overseen this picnic for the past 14 years), the Sonoma Valley High School Alumni: Class of 1966 and the Native Daughters of the Golden West.
Although the picnic is complimentary to veterans and their families and friends, a “Star of Honor” pledge drive will take place during the picnic for donations needed to maintain and improve the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Park and assist toward the expense of applying the names of local deceased veterans to the Star of Honor.
Seating is limited and the weather is normally hot and sunny this time of year. Although pop-up tent canopies will provide shade for many in the audience, not every chair will be under these canopies. Therefore, it is highly recommended to arrive early and wear a hat or sun visor.
A planning committee has also been meeting for months behind the scenes to ensure that this event will be a success in 2019. The members of this group are local residents who represent every major veteran organization located within the Sonoma Valley. They are: Retired U.S. Navy Captain Bruce Janigian (Chairman), Terry Leen (Vice Chairman), Chip Allen (Master of Ceremonies), Dr. Timothy Norman (Marshal of Ceremonial Protocol), Robert Arnold, Bryan Aubin, Ruth Parks Chambers, Deborah DeMartini, Leslie Fuller, John Gray, Ronda Ross-Leen, Bob Leonard, Gary Magnani, Leighton Parks, Willi Vaughn and Stephanie Wadell.
Veterans who want to participate in this Grand March are requested to muster at 10:30 a.m. sharp beneath the flag of their particular branch of the armed forces.
The location will once again be the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Park located north of the Plaza on First Street West, adjacent to the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Hall building.