VA Cemetery Dedicated
By Audrey Wong
DIXON - Peggy Berry found a measure of closure Sunday at the dedication ceremony for the Sacramento Valley VA National Cemetery.
Berry's son, Charles Angelo Berry, served eight years in the Army and is buried at the new veterans' cemetery. There was a memorial for Charles Berry in the East Bay where his family and friends are. But they did not have a chance to see Charles' final resting spot until Sunday.
"He served his country well," said Jorge Watson, a friend of Charles. "He was good people . . . I think he would have really approved being buried here."
More than 2,000 people gathered on the manicured lawn of the national cemetery to honor the sacrifices of veterans and to mark the opening of the hallowed ground.
The audience spilled out of the seating for 1,200. Members of the Patriot Guard, a motorcycle group that honors fallen soldiers, surrounded the audience while bearing American flags.
The Spirit of Solano, a C-17 Globemaster accompanied by a C-5 Galaxy and a KC-10 Extender, soared over the crowd.
"That is the sound of freedom," said retired Vacaville mayor and Air Force officer Len Augustine, who served as master of ceremonies.
The creation of the cemetery is fulfilling part of a promise Abraham Lincoln made in 1865, near the end of the Civil War, said U.S. Representative Ellen Tauscher. Lincoln vowed that the government would care for every soldier and his family in part by providing a national resting place.
The first person buried in the cemetery is Alvin Hayman who served in the Pacific theater during World War II and who donated his ranch for the cemetery, said Chaplain John Herrmann of the 114th Chaplain Det.
Solano County now has a "hometown," cemetery, Herrmann said.
"No longer will veterans be buried miles away," Herrmann said. "They can be close to their loved ones."
The grounds are made hallowed by those resting there, Herrmann said.
"Wars begin and end," said William Tuerk, Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs. "But caring for our nation's warriors is a perpetual obligation."
Tuerk encouraged the audience to visit the cemetery as it expands to 560 acres with landscaping.
The ceremony ended with the California State National Guard firing a rifle salute and Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jim Masters performing taps.
Knowing Solano County has a veterans cemetery nearby is comforting, said retired Air Force Colonel William Cox, of the 303rd Bomb Group. Cox flew missions during combat in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
"I look forward to someday being buried here," Cox of Vacaville said.
Deborah and David Deas, Patriot Guard members, were heartened to see the large turnout. The Citrus Heights couple are parents of an Army soldier who recently served in Afghanistan and is scheduled to be deployed there again.
"This is kind of important to us," Deborah Deas said. "This (cemetery) gives us a hometown place, some place to go."
Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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