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A day to remember
Raymond Hill
Capt. Raymond Dwayne Hill II was with the National Guard and was killed in action on Oct. 29, 2005, from a roadside bomb that exploded near his Humvee while on patrol in Baghdad.
What was once known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day continues to be a time for Americans to remember those men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Since its origination in the years following the Civil War, the observation of Memorial Day has changed over the years.
“Memorial Day for me, since I was a little kid, was to go out to the local cemetery and honor those who served by decorating their graves,” said retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ed Wheeler.
The tradition of families taking picnic lunches out to the cemetery and spending the day decorating the graves of fallen soldiers has gone by the wayside in recent years. Many people now see Memorial Day as just an unofficial start of summer and a paid day off of work.
“More and more we get away from what (Memorial Day) means,” said retired U.S. Navy Commander Burt Gilpin. “I’m very thankful to have been born and raised in this country, and it was an honor to serve it. I’d do it again.”
For two local families, however, the meaning of Memorial Day is very personal.
Rod Hill will be spending the weekend remembering the sacrifices his brother, Capt. Raymond Dwayne Hill II, made for his country. Capt. Raymond Dwayne Hill II, 39, was with the National Guard and was killed in action on Oct. 29, 2005, from a roadside bomb that exploded near his Humvee while on patrol in Baghdad, Iraq. He left behind a wife and two young daughters. He enjoyed working on classic cars, and was active in 4-H both as a member and as a leader.
“Before my brother’s death, I just remembered those who fought for us in the back of my mind, and mainly spent time with my family on (Memorial Day),” Rod Hill said. “Now I, and our family, truly remember who died for us. Since 2005, Memorial Day has had a different meaning.”
Laura Vawter’s observation of Memorial Day also changed after the death of her son, Army Ranger Dale Brehm. . Brehm, 23, was killed in Iraq on March 18, 2006, when his unit came under fire. He left behind a wife.

“It’s taken on a total different meaning to me since Dale’s death,” Vawter said of Memorial Day. “It used to be just a holiday, time off from work. It’s much more than just a time for people to barbecue.
“It’s not a time of celebration; it’s a time of mourning.”
Vawter said that people need to understand and appreciate the true significance of why Memorial Day was established. Especially now, she said, as more and more families are being touched by the death of a loved one in the service.
A community Memorial Day service will be held at 10 a.m. on Monday at Turlock Memorial Park.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.