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Rancho Cordova Independent

Rancho Cordova Pays Tribute to Fallen

May 29, 2024 04:25PM ● By Shelly Blanchard, executive director, Cordova Community Council, photos by Rick Sloan

Rancho Cordova Mayor David Sander places the Ceremonial Wreath.


RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) - Rancho Cordovans paid tribute to American men and women who have given their lives in defense of the country during the moving 16th Annual Memorial Day Observance held at the Cordova High School Performing Arts Center Monday.

The event theme was “21st Century War Heroes,” focusing on those who joined the military’s War on Terror in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and gave their lives in the 20 years which followed.

Chief Master Sergeant James Sullivan USAF missing man

 Chief Master Sergeant (Ret.) James Sullivan, USAF, explains the missing man symbolism.


The event also marked the 75th Anniversary of NATO — the post World War II alliance which helped preserve global peace for the 45 years of the Cold War in which Mather Air Force Base played a vital role.

“This Memorial Day, we honor the unique contributions of 21st Century Heroes. They answered the call to serve in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, toppling Saddam Hussein from Iraq and ousting the Taliban from Afghanistan,” said emcee Dan DeShong, a Vietnam Army veteran and member of the organization committee.

Veteran of Foreign Wars Pledge of Allegiance

 A Veteran of Foreign Wars member salutes during the Pledge of Allegiance.


“Many were stirred to service after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,” he said. “While many Americans added flags to their cars, these 21st-century war heroes put their lives on the line. More than 7,000 lost them.”

Chief Master Sergeant (Ret.) James Sullivan, USAF, representing the Non-Commissioned Officers Association, re-enacted the traditional “Missing Man Tribute,” a symbolic reminder of the losses felt by families when a family member is held prisoner or dies in battle.

The Missing Man Table

 The Missing Man Table is a symbolic ritual which captures the impact of losing a loved one from a family.


Keynote speaker was Matt Ceccato. A paratrooper in the US Army, Ceccato was on his second deployment to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005 when he was wounded in combat by a gunshot through both legs that left him unable to walk. He battled through a long recovery, became a Presidential Management Fellow and U.S. National Security Policy expert, and now serves the Rancho Cordova area as deputy district director to Rep. Ami Bera, D-6th District.

Keynote speaker Matthew Ceccato Operation Iraqi Freedom

 Keynote speaker Matthew Ceccato delivers a powerful speech about Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Mayor David Sander placed a memorial wreath on behalf of the citizens of Rancho Cordova, prayers were shared for fallen warriors and patriotism was celebrated.

Tying it all together was the Rancho Cordova River City Concert Band, which provided a musical backdrop to the event, performing a wide range of specially chosen pieces including “Missing Man,” The NATO Hymn” and “Within the Hallowed Halls.”

Rancho Cordova River City Concert Band God Bless America

 Rancho Cordova River City Concert Band performs “God Bless America.”


The Memorial Day observance was produced by the Cordova Community Council with the help of a community-based volunteer committee, Boy Scout Troop 363, Cordova High School Jr. ROTC cadets and local veterans’ organizations who were on hand to share information.

Cordova High School ROTC

 Cordova High School Jr. ROTC presents the colors.


“We are so fortunate to be living in the United States of America, the most wonderful country on earth,” noted DeShong. “We honor those who have protected our freedoms, giving generously to our nation. All gave some. Some gave all. And remembering them is what Memorial Day is all about.”

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