Murrieta pays tribute to locals, all fallen heroes in ceremony

Mayor Rick Gibbs addresses the crowd during the annual Memorial Day ceremony in Murrieta's Town Square Park Monday. Murrieta 24/7 pho...

Mayor Rick Gibbs addresses the crowd during the annual Memorial Day ceremony in Murrieta's Town Square Park Monday.
Murrieta 24/7 photos: Doug Spoon

City and regional dignitaries and veterans representing all branches of the Armed Forces gathered in Murrieta's Town Square Park on Monday for a Memorial Day tribute to those who died in the service of our country.

After welcoming the crowd, Mayor Rick Gibbs reminded the audience of the four names on a monument at the entrance to the park, representing four Murrieta residents who died during military service -- PFC Nicholas HJ Gideon, Sgt. Eric Edward Williams, Sgt. Clinton Keith Ruiz, and Sgt. Eric Matthew Seaman. At the end of the ceremony, Gibbs and Senator Jeff Stone laid a wreath in front of the monument, which stands next to the city's Field of Honor (left), displaying American flags honoring fallen heroes from Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

The presentation of colors was conducted by members of the Murrieta Valley High School Marine Corps JROTC. Amanda Renee sang the national anthem, and Korean War veteran Don Krampe recited the American Creed. The invocation was given by Dennis Hernandez. Keith Larson played taps at the conclusion of the ceremony.

The keynote speaker was Master Sgt. John Hernandez (below right), a veteran of more than 20 years of active duty service and 10 years of civilian service in the Marine Corps. He is the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4089, serving Murrieta and Temecula.

"It's a great day to celebrate Memorial Day -- and I don't hide that verbiage 'celebrate'," Hernandez told the crowd. "Because we should be celebrating. We go back and forth on whether we should use the word 'celebrate' for Memorial Day, and I say, 'Why not?'

"I have many friends and loved ones here, and today they're celebrating. Yes, we mourn, but we also celebrate the lives of the fallen. We use the word freedom repeatedly during this day. The four men on that monument, they are four of the thousands since 9/11 who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. But today I'd like to touch on another word -- memorial. That is defined as something established to remind people of a person or an event.

"My father once told me, 'All those in the military are afraid to die. But what they're more afraid of is not being remembered.' We can never let that happen."

Stone reminded the guests how much respect he has for Murrieta and its residents.

"Of all the cities I represent, this city really exemplifies patriotism," he said. "Seeing the hundreds of flags on display today, it gives me a renewed spirit that I'm glad to be an American. This is a day we need to re-invent that gives the opportunity to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice,which allows us to live in a free country."

Mayor Rick Gibbs explains the significance of the monument honoring local fallen heroes.

Guests stand during the presentation of the colors by Murrieta Valley High School's MCJROTC unit.

State Senator Jeff Stone, who serves Murrieta and the surrounding area, addresses the crowd.

A large crowd attended Monday's Memorial Day ceremony in Town Square Park.


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