Jun 20, 2016 at 06:48 PM

San Marcos High observes Memorial Day Santa Barbara News Press, June 1, 2016

By Veterans Foundation

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The colors enter San Marcos High School stadium for Tuesday's Memorial Day service.

RAFAEL MALDONADO/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS

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Ed Behren, principal of San Marcos High School, is presented with a U.S. flag.

The first Vietnam Veterans memorial stands at the stadium at San Marcos High, which for many years has made the area an ideal location for a Memorial Day ceremony the day after the holiday.

It is set up so that students at the high school can understand, outside of barbecues, beach-going and a day off of school, the true meaning of honoring the fallen.

So for one hour on Tuesday morning, the student body gathered on the concrete steps of the stadium to witness the ceremony and hear speakers who have served talk about the ones who gave their life for their country. And the memorial demonstrates in its 38 names how that sacrifice can affect a graduating class.

Peter Bie introduced students to the history and meaning of the POW-MIA flag that flew below the American flag. In front of him stood a table set for one, which also holds meaning for the missing in action.

Mr. Bye told the story of designer Newt Heisley, a former World War II pilot who designed the POW-MIA logo, with its bowed head in profile, guard tower and barbed wire, in 1971. The flag first flew over the White House in 1988.

He also explained the symbolism of the table: small to represent the frailty of the prisoner, white tablecloth to show the soldier's purity of intentions, a single red rose to represent the families and loved ones who keep the faith, the candle their spirit, a slice of lemon on a bread plate to symbolize their bitter fate, the salt for the family's tears, the inverted glass because they cannot toast, and empty because they are not here.

The POW-MIA theme this year was due to San Marcos' Larry Cook, "because it's so important to mention those missing in action," he said. Mr. Cook, along with the Vietnam Veterans Association 218 and the Santa Barbara Veterans of Foreign Wars, are looking to raise funds to refurbish the plaque at the stadium, for a total between $2,500 and $5,000. They are also looking to make a documentary about all 38 on the wall, "so we never forget the men on this plaque."

The ceremony included taps played from the memorial across the stadium, a moment of silence, Scottish pipers playing "Amazing Grace," and a presentation of the flag to San Marcos Principal Ed Behrens. A representative of Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, presented a certificate to Principal Behrens for organizing the annual ceremony.

"I hope every one of you is as proud as I am that San Marcos was the first school to have the first memorial for Vietnam Veterans," he said.

Jonathan Church, retired from the Army as a command sergeant major, explaining how he was class of 1964 and how he spent a lot of his San Marcos years surfing and enjoying his time in high school.

He joined the Army soon after graduation and remembers members of his surf club who died in Vietnam, "and I remember them every year at this time," he said.

Phil Conran, a retired Air Force colonel, and John Blankenship, a retired Navy lieutenant, said that every year it isimportant to note the tremendous loss that San Marcos suffered in Vietnam compared to other schools.

"We're here to show the students what the military is all about and what freedom is all about," said Col. Conran. "You don't get it in the classroom anymore. So if they don't see it outside they don't get it."

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