Large crowd gathers for Grass Valley Memorial Day ceremony (VIDEO) |

Large crowd gathers for Grass Valley Memorial Day ceremony (VIDEO)

Brian Comte, the keynote speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony, had a reason for smiling.

The retired Army master sergeant was surrounded by his family, fellow warriors, he said. People who understand firsthand the cost of going to war.

“Let me tell you, I never looked forward to going into a gunfight, but who else was going to do it?” Comte asked.

“People take for granted what we paid so heavily for,” he added moments later. “That’s the disconnect.”

“No matter where we go, we fight for the Constitution. We fight for the people back home.”— Will BuckRetired Army chief warrant officer 2

Over 200 people gathered at 11 a.m. Monday for a Memorial Day ceremony at Memorial Park in Grass Valley. A smaller ceremony occurred earlier that day at Pioneer Park in Nevada City.

Standing under cloudy skies, the Grass Valley crowd grew silent as 11 a.m. approached and bagpipes began to play. Will Buck, who retired from the Army as a chief warrant officer 2, said many people don’t understand the significance of Memorial Day.

“People are forgetting perhaps the most hallowed holiday we have,” said Buck, master of ceremonies.

Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout said she likely was one person who didn’t understand the day’s significance. She told the crowd that Memorial Day honors those who served their country and those who died for it.

“I’m very nervous and I’m very emotional,” she said in her brief remarks. “Those are two things I don’t feel very often.”

In ones, twos or threes, representatives of military organizations honored their groups. They approached a wreath placed for their organization and either stood in silence or saluted as the group’s name was called.

Breaking from the program, Buck called all World War II veterans to come forward. A handful approached. Someone collected their information as Buck reminded the crowd that every year the nation loses more of its greatest generation.

“We don’t fight for any politician,” Buck said. “No matter where we go, we fight for the Constitution. We fight for the people back home.”

Bob Gault, commander of the American Legion Riders, was at work nearby during the ceremony.

Anticipating the lunch that followed, Gault started cooking the food before the ceremony ended. He figured his fellow volunteers would cook 100 hot dogs and 200 hamburgers.

“It’s important that the veterans are treated well, are treated with respect,” Gault said.

Nearing its end, the ceremony grew quiet as the All Veterans Honor Guard raised their rifles for the three-volley salute. Then the bagpipes began again.

“This is all very solemn and brings back a lot of memories,” said Dick Corn, with the honor guard. “People should never say ‘Happy Memorial Day.’ They should say ‘Have a respectful Memorial Day.’ That’s what everyone should say, in my opinion.”

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email or call 530-477-4239.

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