Fallen heroes remembered Monday

By Corey Pride / Cpride@losbanosenterprise.comMay 30, 2013 

Scores of people gathered at the Los Banos District Cemetery on Monday to honor those who have given their lives serving their country.

The Memorial Day ceremony featured Mayor Mike Villalta asking for assistance in honoring Los Banos' fallen who served during four wars.

"For the past two years I have announced the names of the 15 brave men who died in combat from the city of Los Banos. The next step in the progression of honoring these men was to create a photo memorial," Villalta said.

The mayor said he is asking anyone in the public to help him track down photographs of the 15 war dead at the time they were in the military. Anyone interested should contact him through City Hall.

Villalta said it has been a struggle trying to obtain the pictures.

"To date, only one photo has been produced from government records," he said. "Don't misunderstand me, this is not from a lack of trying. In 1973, a major fire destroyed a major portion of records of Army military personnel for the period of 1912 through 1959 and majority of Air Force personnel from 1947 through 1963."

The names of the 15 veterans from Los Banos who were killed while serving are Laurance Muth, killed in Haiti in 1919; World War II casualties Tony Pisano, Bernard Paradiso, Dominic Pricolo, Joe Spina, Tony Pinelli, Joe Latorraca, Louis McMullen, Frank R. Souza and Edgar A. Duffield; Korean War casualty Ralph A. Ellis Jr.; and Vietnam War casualties Frank Celano, John Norris, Dale Sandvig and William "Butch" Scanlon.

Keeping with tradition at the local ceremony, a wreath, flowers and a flag were placed near the memorial marker at the base of the flagpole at the cemetery. VFW members participated and flowers were placed as symbols of remembrance.

Joe Cox, a WWII submarine veteran, attended the Los Banos event and acted as Master of Ceremonies at the Sunday ceremony at the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery near Santa Nella. He said Memorial Day is a time for him to remember the man who took his place on a mission and died.

He said people need to recognize the sacrifice.

"People really do need to appreciate what the services do for them. The people of the Armed Services do a service for us. They get a little better pay than we (older veterans) had but they are still serving this country, they are dedicated people," Cox said.

He said most of the time veterans are properly recognized in Los Banos, but the amount of attention they get has to do with their community service work.

"We are active and we participate in the activities. In other areas they don't do that. If they're not active they won't get the recognition," Cox said.

At the Santa Nella ceremony, American Indians' military service was honored. Veterans wearing tribal dress presented the colors, offered prayers and paid tribute to fallen heroes.

"It is in our DNA to be protectors of the nation and our Earth," said Elizabeth Perez, a Navy veteran who hails from the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of eastern Madera County. "We are on a mission to protect the greater good."

Her father, who was in Operation Desert Storm, died three years after a medical discharge from the service. The hundreds who attended Sunday's program were moved when Perez paid tribute to a friend she met in boot camp, Seaman Nicole Palmer, who was among the sailors killed in the USS Cole bombing Oct. 12, 2000.

Modesto Bee staff writer Ken Carlson contributed to this story.

Modesto Bee staff writer Ken Carlson contributed to this story.

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