The 11 a.m. Memorial Day ceremony at Sanger Cemetery is a  longtime tradition with a format that hasn't changed much over the years. 

But the Edward Kuhlman Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7168, in charge of this year's ceremony, will make several changes, said post commander Clint Vance.

"There will be a flyover by the 144th Air National Guard Fighter Wing, we will pay a special tribute to American troops who died on D-Day, we'll have two speakers and we'll have an insert in the program explaining military traditions involved in the ceremony," said Vance.

"Everyone's invited. This is a special event on a very special day and I hope a lot of people will show up to help us honor all those who gave their lives in the service of our great country."

Lt. Col. Katharine Corliss, the munition flight officer-in-charge at the 144th, will tell us about the important role the fighter wing plays in our national defense and retired Navy Cdr. Patrick Niemeyer will remind us of the more than 6,600 American troops who gave their lives for our country on D-Day, June 6, 1944 - 75 years ago. 

Sanger military organizations take turns organizing the 11 a.m. ceremony and this year it's VFW's turn, said Vance. 

Others involved in the ceremony on May 27 will be:

• VFW members Jim Anderson and Lee Delap;

• the Sanger High School NJROTC posting colors;

• Paige  Benavides singing the National Anthem;

• AMVETS Post 98 honor guard firing the 21 gun salute;

• USMC SSG Esteban Aguirre playing taps; and,

• mayor Frank Gonzalez and city councilmember Eli Ontiveros greeting attendees on behalf of the city.

The other veterans groups participating in the Memorial Day event, which begins around 6 a.m. with miniature U.S. Flags being placed on graves of all military personnel in the cemetery, are American Legion Post 23, AMVETS Post 98 and  Sanger Veterans Network. 

Niemeyer, a member of VFW Post 7168, had an impressive 14 year career as a Navy chaplain. He retired as a highly decorated commander. 

Among the many noteworthy items on his extensive resume is his involvement with Seal Team Six, the "U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group" that took out Osama bin Laden.

In addition to his Masters of Divinity he has degrees in nursing, psychology and accounting. Before he enlisted in the Navy he  worked as a registered nurse, management engineer and chief of finance and budget. Yet, outside his own Calvary Fellowship Church this remarkably accomplished and versatile Sanger native is not well known in the town where he was born and now pastors a church.

The only time he received citywide recognition was when his church dedicated a unique memorial featuring a flagpole, an anchor and buoy from the military base at Treasure Island.

"It's in the shape of a pentagon so each branch of the service has its own memorial plaque. We will take names and inscribe the names on a brass plate and then will affix them to the memorial," said Niemeyer at the dedication ceremony.

West Point graduate Corliss directs, supervises, and manages daily munitions maintenace operations and accountability for a munitions stockpile at the 144th Fighter Wing worth more than $30 million.  

  She is also responsible for managing the 144th Maintenance Group’s unit self-assessment program, responsible for assessing all aspects of aircraft, equipment, and munitions maintenance to reduce areas of risk and non-compliance and assure combat readiness across the maintenance group.

Corliss graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1998 with a commission in the Army Signal Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant.  

In 2001 Lt. Corliss joined the North Carolina Army National Guard and served for 3 years as the communications staff officer for the 230th Support Battalion. Her efforts ensured a 99 percent reliability rate for three brigade-level exercises, including a rotation to the National Training Center in preparation for deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. 

Corliss took a break from military service in 2004 to focus on family.

When she moved to California she joined the Fresno Air National Guard in 2009.  After a few months she was promoted to 144th Force Support Squadron (FSS) Commander.  She led the FSS to the highest inspection rating during two Air Combat Command Operational Readiness Inspections.

She completed Air Command and Staff College in 2017 and graduated with her master’s degree in "Military Operational Art and Science." 

The reporter can be contacted by email at sangerherald@gmail.com or by phone at the Herald at (559) 875-2511.

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