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Hundreds gather in Atascadero to remember, reflect this Memorial Day

Posted at 3:56 PM, May 31, 2021

Dozens of Memorial Day ceremonies took place around the Central Coast Monday, but one of the larger ones happened at the Faces of Freedom Memorial in Atascadero.

More than 230 names are etched in the Heroes Wall at the memorial.

The heroes from WWI up to today's global War on Terror paid the ultimate sacrifice along with the many others who did not make it home.

Monday’s ceremony was a chance to remember those who gave their all for our country.

“Those of us who served during time of war fully understand the deep meaning of the ultimate sacrifice,” said Commander Ray Johnson, a Navy and Vietnam War veteran who attended the ceremony.

Those who served our country gathered at the Faces of Freedom memorial Monday to make sure the true meaning of Memorial Day is not forgotten.

“This day is special for me because I saw a lot of my friends that I knew killed while I was in the service that didn't come back,” said Korean War Veteran Louie Espinoza.

Hundreds of community members also paid tribute to the fallen heroes from our area and beyond.

One Vietnam veteran said the turnout on Monday was especially humbling.

“Because we wasn't recognized when we came home. we were called all kinds of names and spit on and everything else,” said James May, an Army veteran and Vietnam War veteran.

Sitting shoulder to shoulder, dozens of veterans were unified as they paused and reflected.

When we left we were strangers and when we came back we became brothers,” May said.

Families also want people to remember this Memorial Day the family of those killed while protecting our freedom.

“Because what you endured during these tragedies and you, too, also served our country,” Johnson said.

“It should never be forgotten for those who gave their all,” Espinoza added.

Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day back in the 1800s because that's the day people would go out and decorate the graves of soldiers.

It later became Memorial Day and a federal holiday in 1971.