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'I had to come for my honey'
January 1944, Anzio Beach, Italy
Look, God: I have never spoken to you, but now, I want to say how do you do.
You see, God, they told me you didn't exist, and like a fool, I believed all of this.
Last night, from a shell hole, I saw your sky; I figured right then, they had told me a lie.
Had I taken time to see the things you made, I'd know they weren't calling a spade a spade.
I wonder, God, if you'd shake my hand somehow, I feel you will understand.
Funny, I had to come to this hellish place before I had the time to see your face.
Well, I guess there isn't much more to say, but I'm sure glad, God, I met you today.
I guess the "zero hour" will soon be here. But I'm not afraid since I know you are so near.
The signal! Well, God, I'll have to go. I like you lots. This I want you to know.
Look, now this will be a horrible fight. Who knows, I may come to your house tonight.
Though I wasn't friendly with you before, I wonder, God, if you'd wait at your door.
Look, I'm crying; me, shedding tears. I wish I'd known you these many years.
Well, I will have to go now, God. Goodby. Strange, since I met you, I'm not afraid to die.
Editor's Note: Former Colusa County Supervisor H.L. Peterson found the poem among his World War II material. It had been distributed to a number of people by a staff sergeant.
A question was posed at a Memorial Day service on Monday about whether veterans buried in local cemeteries would make the same sacrifice today as they did 40, 60 or even 100 years ago.
Their sacrifice, after all, was a common theme in both the Williams and Maxwell ceremonies.
"Yes, they would," answered the Rev. Dennis Draves, who spoke to several dozen people at the first ceremony in Williams. "They understood the price of freedom. They'd do it again with faith and enthusiasm, and so should we."
In Maxwell, the Rev. Lloyd Ash, a member of the Dixon American Legion, said only the wars have changed, but not the men and women who share the same ideal.
"They believed freedom was worth dying for," Ash said.
Draves shares a similar belief, saying it is stronger for those who have tasted liberty, but fears that personal sacrifice may dwindle if division continues in this country.
Both observances honored fallen heroes, as well as those who served or are still serving in the nation's armed forces.
The patriotic ceremonies brought out people from the communities and beyond to recognize the sacrifices made by so many for their country, and both were marked by prayer, speeches, floral offerings and riffle salutes.
Many took the opportunity to remember their own loved ones, and stood among headstones adorned with flowers, insignias and American flags, some marveling in the tranquility, peace and even beauty that surrounded them.
"I had to be here," said Yreka widow Nova Reed, whose husband Les Reed — the son of a deceased World War II veteran and Maxwell American Legion Auxiliary member — was buried among his family last year in Maxwell. "I had to come for my honey."
More than 500 American veterans are buried in the Williams and Maxwell ceremonies.
"It is important to remember veterans because without them, we would not be standing here today," said Marilyn Azevedo, president of the Maxwell American Legion Auxiliary. "It's a beautiful thing."
Despite ceremonies occurring on Memorial Day throughout the U.S., Ash said the country should be concerned that people are forgetting what Memorial Day means, something evident each year in Maxwell, as a string of boats and camp trailers barrel past the cemetery from East Park Reservoir.
"We need to teach patriotism to our young people," Ash said. "We need to rekindle the fire of pride in our country again. We need to be better people."
Both ceremonies did have some youth in attendance. A few scattered children sat with parents during the solemn ceremonies.
In Williams, the Williams High School band, led by Ron Simmons, performed several patriotic selections. In Maxwell, the middle school band was led by Vicki Wilson.
Although the Maxwell American Legion and Auxiliary host the Memorial Day service in Maxwell, its members, along with Williams veterans and the Colusa Veterans of Foreign Wars participate in both ceremonies.
Auxiliary member Naomi Hampshire laid a wreath for the unknown soldier in Williams. Member Jean Roper did the same in Maxwell.
The veterans who formed the firing squad represented all Colusa County organizations.
Although Memorial Day was not officially observed with a ceremony in Colusa, the Lions Club placed about 60 America Flags throughout the downtown in honor of the occasion.
Citizens for a Better Williams and the Maxwell Beautification Committee placed flags in their communities.