VACAVILLE — Combat Medic Army Staff Sgt. Emmett Spraktes admitted he had trouble working out what he would say at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony in the Vacaville-Elmira Cemetery.
“I turned to a friend,” Spraktes said of the fellow soldier, who stressed that Monday was all about those who didn’t come home.
“It is all about how we memorialize them, remember them,” Spraktes said of those who have died for this country from the Revolution to Afghanistan. “We are charged with that duty.”
Spraktes, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the California National Guard, described Memorial Day not as a holiday, but as a day to remember “the human cost of freedom” and a day to consider how best to honor those who paid that cost.
“We have to speak for those who died. We are the ones who remember them, the ones who remain faithful to their memory,” Spraktes said. “We have to remind others this is more than just a three-day holiday.”
Spraktes talked about one of the battles he was in, one he felt that he may not survive, pondering that what he felt may have been what some of those who Memorial Day is about, felt before they died. He said he thought of his family and loved ones.
“There was nothing but love about you, regret that I would not see you again, wondering if you would be OK without me,” he said in reference to his thoughts about his family.
The ceremony took place in one corner of the cemetery amid veterans’ gravestones, each of which had an American flag stuck into the ground next to it. Veterans and community members clustered in the shade of trees to escape the warm sun while honoring the nation’s fallen.
Travis Air Force Base’s Honor Guard helped both start and close the ceremony with the posting of the colors at the cemetery’s flagpole as well as firing a three-round volley to salute the fallen. Gold Star Mothers, Blue Star Moms, the local Air Force Junior ROTC and local veterans group representatives each laid wreathes at the flagpole.
Robert Vigil, commander-elect of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7244, helped open the ceremony with a prayer to remember those who gave “no greater love than to lay down their lives for their country.”
“This is who and what we are here for, to honor the sacrifice that created this nation and has preserved it through the years,” said VFW Post 7244 past commander and master of ceremonies Wulf Corrington.
Both Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez and Vacaville Mayor Steve Hardy issued proclamations to recognize Memorial Day and lauded those who took time out of the day to remember those who have given that last full measure of service.