Echo Taps - Salute

Reedley High School student Chris Lopez, right, plays “Echo Taps” with classmate Reese Kubo (not pictured) during the Memorial Day ceremony at Reedley Cemetery on May 27.

During his at the May 27 Memorial Day ceremony at Reedley Cemetery, guest speaker Vernon Schmidt didn’t mince words when he talked about the importance of the holiday.

“I’m not saying we all have to come here every day and bring fresh flowers. But every day should be remembrance day. Every day should be Memorial Day, remembering the price that these men that you see here paid,” the 93-year-old World War II veteran said while gesturing to the gravesides of those buried in the Unknown portion of the cemetery. He said about 17,000 World War II veterans are missing in action whose remains were never found.

Schmidt, a Reedley native (he was born in a farmhouse on Lac Jac Avenue), is commander of the Ex-POWs chapter 1 in Central California. He shared emotional stories about families left behind and grateful Europeans who to this day hold love and loyal for their “liberators” from the war.

And he shared about those who gave their lives in battle.

“These people paid the ultimate price,” he said. “And there have been some ‘whys’ over the years, I’ve asked why.” One of his stories shared was when he met the brother of a military man who he said “died in his place.”

“I’ve asked ‘why’ many times, but I’ve learned to say ‘Father, you are in supreme command [and] you order every day, every hour of what we do and say.’”

Schmidt told about the seven military members from Reedley who became prisoners of war during WWII. He knew six of them, and shared stories off all of them. His recollections included Bill Rhodes, who died in 2007.

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