The Shafter Press - Serving the community since 1922

By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

A day of remembrance


Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

Pastor Jim Neal was one of the speakers for the event.

Memorial Day ceremonies were held throughout Kern County, and the City of Shafter honored the holiday with their own at the Shafter Memorial Cemetery, put on by the Ladies Auxiliary, along with several local businesses including the Shafter Lions Club, Shafter Rotary and Shafter Kiwanis.

Captain Jeff Bell of the Shafter Police Department was master of ceremonies again this year, welcoming the crowd that numbered over 200. Bell is also a veteran, serving in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Bell began the proceedings by regaling the crowd of an event that took place in Israel, as the entire nation observed two minutes of silence recently, to pay respect to the Holocaust survivors and those who lost their lives during that catastrophe. Bell asked that all of the attendees on Monday morning to do the same, and the air was quiet as the crowd was silent for two minutes in honor of the men and women who have fought and gave their lives for freedom.

The colors this year were posted by Cub Scout Pack 25, and the invocation was given by Pastor Jim Neal of First Southern Baptist Church of Shafter. Neal was also one of two speakers at the event.

The first speaker was Shafter Police Chief and U.S. Marine Kevin Zimmermann.

Zimmermann spoke of the sacrifice that has been made by thousands of family and friends who have chosen to serve our country.

"I am proud to say that I have nine children, eight daughters and one son. Of those nine, three daughters and our son chose to enlist in the military and served our country. I like to think that the decision was in some way a result of the way we brought up our children, showing them how important it is to serve others."

Zimmermann told the crowd that we have several heroes in our very city, including a fallen hero who has a portion of Highway 43 named after him. "I never had the privilege to meet Ricky Barraza, but I, along with several men in our department, wear a bracelet in honor of Staff Sergeant Barraza." Zimmermann said that wearing it reminds him that we have heroes in our midst, helping the country enjoy the freedoms that we have.

Genieca Risner, of the American Legion Auxiliary, recited a poem that is a tradition here in Shafter. It is entitled "In Flanders Field." The war poem was written by Canadian Colonel John McRae, who wrote it after presiding over a fellow soldier and friend's funeral, after he was killed in the Second Battle of Ypres. The description in the poem of the red poppies that grew over the graves of the fallen soldiers has grown into the most recognized symbol of the soldiers who have died in conflict.

Pastor Jim Neal spoke about what the word memorial means. Neal is a veteran himself, having served in the U.S. Air Force. Neal also said that he was here today thanks to his parents deciding to serve our country. His parents met while both were serving in the military, stationed in Puerto Rico.

Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

Cub Scout Pack 25 presented the colors.

"So, I guess it is thanks to their decision to serve and make that sacrifice that I am standing here today," commented Neal.

He went on to say that Memorial Day gives a chance to reflect on the sacrifices that were made so that we may gather for a ceremony such as this one, free from worry of tyranny, oppression or fear of retribution. "We are free because of the brave who have sacrificed their brothers, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers, making most every day for them Memorial Day.".

Several clubs placed wreaths around the Veterans Memorial and plaques, and then the service was concluded with the playing of "Taps" by Shafter High graduate and current Bakersfield College student Juan Buenrostro.

Lunch was served after the ceremony at the Shafter Veterans Hall in a time of fellowship and remembrance.


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