It’s the start of Memorial Day weekend, a time to honor those who died while serving in the U.S. military.
Last year, many Memorial Day events were called off due to the pandemic. Now, organizers are bringing local events back.
“This is the biggest turnout we’ve ever had and we’re so thankful, because last year we had hardly anything due to COVID,” said Arroyo Grande community organizer Beverly Galloway.
Fellow organizer Suzanne Champau is the wife of a U.S. military veteran. Over 20 years ago on Memorial Day, they started decorating the graves of veterans at the Arroyo Grande District Cemetery with American flags.
When her husband passed away, she put the American flag on his grave. Then, she continued the Memorial Day tradition with community volunteers.
“It’s something our family honors deeply. A lot of people look at it as a chance to go to the beach or have a barbecue. We look at it as a chance to really honor those who have served,” said the Pick family, who volunteered at the Arroyo Grande District Cemetery.
Another family who volunteered were the Cuddys. They added, “We’re here in this country and we’re able to enjoy our freedom because of the service of others and we’re here to appreciate them for that.”
The Pismo Beach Cities Lion Club held a breakfast to give free meals to veterans, too. Former Lions Club District Governor and former U.S. Army veteran, Tony Manuel, funds the free breakfasts for veterans himself.
“I’m getting a small allowance for being in Vietnam. So I’m sharing part of that with other veterans who may not have that,” said Manuel.
“They’ve given so much to America that we want to give back a little bit. And if a breakfast is what we can give back today, then that’s what we want to do,” said past Pismo Beach Lions Club president Karen Walsh.
Many community members share the sentiment that it’s important to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
“It’s honoring their memory so they’re not forgotten, especially since it’s my husband now,” said Champeau. “It’s keeping his memory alive and his service to the country.”
If you’re looking for something to do on Sunday, Welcome Home Military Heroes will hold a vehicle salute at Oakley Park in Santa Maria at noon.