Large gatherings may be banned in California, but Lodi will still remember service members who gave their lives in combat, as well as area veterans.
“We’ve filmed every segment of a regular Memorial Day service,” said Dan Stanley, sales director at Cherokee Memorial Park. “We decided that we still needed to do a service.”
This year’s event will feature a guest speaker, 21-gun salute, “Taps,” wreath-laying ceremonies and all of the other traditions guests see each Memorial Day.
The speaker will be U.S. Marine Corps Col. Tiffany Harris, who commands the Tracy Defense Depot. She visited the cemetery last week to film her portion of the program, Stanley said.
And there is an added feature this year: interviews with two World War II veterans who served at Iwo Jima. Cpl. Frank Wright of Lodi, 94, and Maj. William White of Stockton, 104, described their experiences at the battle that raged 75 years ago, from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945.
The video will be up on the cemetery and funeral home’s website for a while, Stanley said, possibly all year.
While residents will have to watch the ceremony online this year, they are still welcome to visit Cherokee Memorial Park throughout Memorial Day weekend, he added.
“We’re hopeful we get just about as many as normal,” he said.
Cemetery staff began placing 7,892 small American Flags for the annual Avenue of Flags tradition on Tuesday. Each of the flags marks the gravesite of a known veteran who is buried at Cherokee Memorial Park. Another 42 flags will honor local veterans killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Stockton Marine Corps Club will put up a Field of Flags for every U.S. service member killed in combat in those countries since 2003.
From 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, visitors will also be able to see the Avenue of Flags, featuring 1,031 “casket flags” — the American Flags presented to veterans’ families when they pass away. The Avenue of Flags has been a tradition at Cherokee Memorial for 63 years.
“We wanted to do something as a gift for Lodi and Stockton,” Stanley said.
Visitors are asked to follow social distancing guidelines while visiting the cemetery.
Finally, for the second year, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts will gather at the cemetery for the second annual Robbie Mariano Memorial Run, honoring Army Pvt. Robbie Mariano of Stockton, who died in 2006 while serving in Iraq. The bikers will also be practicing social distancing, Stanley said.
The American Legion will not be holding a public ceremony this year, but the veterans’ organization will continue to honor their fallen brothers and sisters.
On Saturday morning, members of Lodi Post 22 will head to Lodi Memorial Cemetery with American Flags, where they will mark the grave of each veteran buried there to honor their service. The cemetery will be open to visitors on Memorial Day.
“Since we can’t have gatherings or anything, we’re going to put small flags out at the cemetery still to honor our veterans,” said Ken Kramlich, service officer for Post 22.
Patriotic Flyovers will also visit local skies starting at 10 a.m. on Monday, he said, to present the missing man formation.
“They’ll probably make a couple passes,” he said.