The annual Memorial Day ceremony at Reedley Cemetery proved to be a homecoming or sorts for the guest speaker, Vernon Schmidt. That’s because Schmidt, the commander of the Ex-POWs Chapter 1 in Central California, was born at a house on Lac Jac Avenue west of Reedley in 1926.

“My grandparents on my mother’s side were immigrants from Sweden. My grandparents on my father’s side were immigrants from Germany, but have lived in Poland and Russia, came over here and started a bramd new life,” he said. “I had my father serve in World War I. My mother, three of her six brothers served in World War I. My brother and I both served in World War II. I have a son and son-in-law. My son-in-law served in Vietnam. And they have a son, one of my grandsons, a West Point graduate who served over in Iraq.”

Schmidt said he’s been gone from Reedley for more than 45 years, but “my roots are still in this beautiful city,” he said. “This city offered a lot of things to a lot of people, and an opportunity for many people who came here. Even during the dust bowl years in the mid 1930s, they came out here for a new way of life.”

Schmidt said that during World War II, about 40 members of the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church — then located at 12th and E streets — went off to fight in the war. And he presented the audience with a fascinating fact.

“Something that is and was lasting to me that I still I feel deeply inside my heart, is [that] someone in that church — 24 hours a day — was on their knees, praying for those 40 guys. There was a plaque up in front of that church with a star by each person. All 40 returned, a real testimony.” As the audience applauded, he said “I’m grateful today that I’m open of those survivors.”

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