Memorial Day events take place around Bay Area

Byby Wayne Freedman, Cornell Barnard and Amy Hollyfield via KGO logo
Monday, May 26, 2014
Cpl. Sean Langeven's memorial in Walnut Creek
Cpl. Sean Langeven's memorial in Walnut Creek

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There were several Memorial Day ceremonies held around the Bay Area to honor the sacrifices of U.S. service members. One of the largest events took place in Walnut Creek. Monday, they added three more plaques downtown to the fallen.

If we're fortunate, we observe Memorial Day objectively, from a distance. We have no loved one to mourn and no cemeteries to visit.

We would not be like Roxane Langevin of Walnut Creek, or her daughter-in-law, Jessica. They heard the annual roll call in Civic Park, and when they heard the name of Cpl. Sean Langevin, they made the best of it.

When asked how old her son was when he died, Roxane replied, "Twenty-three... just a baby."

It's too young to have a monument with his name on it in Downtown Walnut Creek and too young to leave a wife and young daughter behind.

"Did he ever meet his daughter?" I asked widow Jessica Langevin. She replied, "She was born three months after his death. I'm just blessed I have (my daughter) to have a piece of him forever now."

Roxane made the keynote speech at a ceremony for which the tradition goes back decades. She told how Sean died in Afghanistan in 2007, and received two Bronze Stars. "Those who have fallen while serving our country are not faceless people or statistics, they are someone's loved one," she reminded us. They were real people, loved people, who left families behind.

"It was like an emptiness, like a knife going through my heart," she said when she learned of Sean's death. "I miss him every day. Every minute. It feels like yesterday."

And, for her, every day feels like Memorial Day.

Click here to see photos of Memorial Day in Walnut Creek from Wayne Freedman.

Flight 93 Memorial held in Union City

A memorial for United Airlines Flight 93 was held in Union City on Memorial Day Monday at Sugar Mill Landing Park. The names of the 40 heroes from the flight were read by surviving family members from the Bay Area in a bell chime ceremony.

Flight 93 was supposed to land at SFO on Sept. 11, 2001, but it's believed the terrorists who hijacked the plane were headed for the U.S. capitol. The plane ended up crashing into a field in rural Pennsylvania as passengers and crew attempted to regain control.

Residents visit Lafayette crosses on Memorial Day

A famous war memorial in the Bay Area is at a crossroads. The crosses on a Lafayette hillside were only meant to be a temporary memorial to our fallen troops, but now there are plans are in the works to make it permanent.

There is no question the crosses on Deer Hill Road have become a landmark in Lafayette, but now with troops coming home, now there's a movement beginning to make it a permanent tribute.

The Cate family visited the crosses of Lafayette for the first time. It's a place they pass by nearly every day.

Christie Cate said, "Since we've lived here, we drive by here to go to school and we've watched the number continue to change and change."

The number of fallen troops has been posted on the hill since the early days of the War On Terrorism.

Some visiting on this Memorial Day are clearly moved by the handmade wooden crosses, some bearing names of the fallen. Dublin resident Lori Eichman's son just returned home from two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the Army.

"You look at all of this, and this is all our sons and daughters. For those of us who were lucky enough that our children returned, we still all bare this," Eichman said.

"Everyone sort of experiences it a different way," Lafayette Crosses Memorial founder Jeff Heaton said.

Heaton thought he was making a temporary statement back in 2004, but years later, this hillside has been embraced by the community. Plans are being made to landscape the hills with permanent pathways and sculptures.

"Instead of having one big sculpture by say some famous artist, why not have hundreds of small sculptures?" Heaton asked.

The family which owns this property has given their blessing. Private donations would fund the memorial. A public workshop will be held this summer.

"It's right off of BART, it's off of the freeway, you see it. It's become kind of like a landmark in Lafayette. I can't imagine it coming down," Cate said.

Presidio holds 146th annual Memorial Day celebration

The Presidio in San Francisco held its 146th annual Memorial Day celebration at 11 a.m. A large crowd gathered to watch the ceremony at the Presidio National cemetery.

It has over 35,000 graves and each one has been decorated with a flag. The Boy Scouts usually spend the weekend placing the flags on the tombstones and this weekend the Girl Scouts joined in to help.

This ceremony is one of the largest in the nation and officials said they expected about 2,500 people to attend.

When youngsters show up on this day from school, the older generation notices.

"It makes me feel good when we see younger people bringing their children here because they'll remember. As we get older, we tend to forget the future generation forgets, but if children are brought to see the sacrifices that men and women have made, then I think it would make a difference," Capt. Antone Sousa said.

They started the morning with a great march and there was a special emphasis on remembering Vietnam veterans this year. They commemorated the 50th anniversary of the escalation of that war and dedicated the ceremony to the Vietnam veterans. Many of those soldiers were deployed from the Presidio.

Officials offered 30-minute tours of the National Cemetery after the program.

Two military aircraft, operated by the 129th Rescue Wing, conducted a flyover during the ceremonies at Oak Hill Memorial Park in San Jose. Also in the South Bay, at California's Great America in Santa Clara, all current and past service men and women received free admission.