PASO ROBLES — At the tail end of Monday’s Memorial Day Ceremony, Tiffany Tedeschi sang “I’m proud to be an American” at the Paso Robles District Cemetery.
As she hit the first chorus of the famous Lee Greenwood song, “And I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free. And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. And I'd gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today. 'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A.” people in the crowd did just that and stood up.
People continued to stand up as she sang.
And, by the time, she reached the final chorus, nearly everyone in the crowd of several hundred was standing and singing along — many with tears in their eyes.
It was one of several poignant moments in the annual Memorial Day service that reminded everyone why they came to the cemetery — to remember the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
“The first national celebration took place on the 30th of May, 1868, at Arlington Cemetery,” said guest speaker U.S. Army Ret. Lt. Col. Erik Brun, of Morro Bay. “It is fitting that veterans make it their responsibility to speak for the dead. The dead are left without a voice. They are frozen in time, as we age, and our families grow.”
Brun was overcome by emotion several times, especially when he talked of the men and women from the Paso Robles, area who had lost their lives while serving their country. His 20-plus minute speech was humorous, thoughtful and reflective.
He concluded by spotlighting the ending of “Battle Hymn of the Republic, “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,” Brun said, adding, “And that is our duty here today as we live to remember and live for these men and women. Thank you.”
Throughout the ceremony, the California Army National Guard 40th Infantry Division Band delighted the crowd with their patriotic music. It was the first time for the band to play at the service in the Paso Robles, having wowed a crowd the previous night with a free performance in the Downtown City Park on Sunday, May 26.
The band asked veterans of each branch of the armed forces to stand as they performed their service songs.
The Memorial Day Ceremony was again organized by the Paso Robles District Cemetery Board with plenty of help from American Legion Post 50, American Legion Riders Chapter 50, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10965, American Legion Ladies Auxiliary Post 50, VFW Ladies Auxiliary Post 10965, Sons of American Legion Post 50, Kuehl-Nicolay Funeral Home staff, and Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Tim Mensing led the invocation and closing prayer. Eagle Scout Alex Vandohlen performed “Taps.”
Following the raising of the American Flag by the American Legion Riders, people ate a free hot dog lunch provided by Kuehl-Nicolay Funeral Home.
Flags were placed at all identified veterans’ graves by the members of the American Legion Post 50 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10965.
Master of Ceremonies Skip Bellinghausen, Commander of American Legion Post 50, said, “I think was one of the best Memorial Day ceremonies we’ve had.”