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Yuba City event marks true meaning of Memorial Day

With weather ideal for almost any outdoor activity, more than a hundred people came to see a somber display in Yuba City on Monday afternoon to remember the reason why it was a holiday.

During closing ceremonies for the 2012 Freedoms Heroes War on terror Memorial, Calvary Christian Center's lead pastor, the Rev. Michael Ciociola, gently pointed out that much of what's discussed in the days before Memorial Day centers on travel, weather and sales.

"At every sale you go to, you'll see the American flag," he said.

Monday's event was meant to mark the holiday's true meaning. On 19 panels along a walkway at the church, the names of every fallen U.S. soldier in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars through early May is listed — more than 6,400 in all. Click here for slide show.

The brief ceremony featured the Beale Air Force Base honor guard, the playing of "Taps" and a flyover by four jets from Beale, with one breaking away in the standard formation to mark a missing man.

Before and after the ceremony, many people made a closer connection with the names on the wall, using a piece of paper and a black piece of wax like a crayon to make a rubbing of a name or two they knew.

Nick Sinclair of Yuba City choked up after he found the name of Matthew R. Stovall, his commanding officer when both were members of the U.S. Army serving in Iraq. Stovall died in 2004 after his vehicle encountered a suicide bomber.

"They're all important, but when you have someone you served with, it's nice they have this," said Sinclair, 33.

Because Stovall's grave is in his home state of Mississippi, Sinclair said, he doesn't have much opportunity to pay his respects there. In its place, he visits the outdoor memorial every year, he said.

"Everyone deals with it in different ways," Sinclair said.

Another veteran, Mark Schrotberger of Yuba City, said Monday's ceremony was a good reminder for him of the importance of paying tribute.

"Not having a symbol like this to go to, the day is lost in barbecues," said Schrotberger, 50, an Air Force veteran.

He said for many years he hadn't participated in Memorial Day events. This year was the first in a while, but not the last, he said.

"We can't go back and get those people," he said. "This will be every year for me."

CONTACT Ben van der Meer at or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer

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