Memorial Day at Mojave: Surprising and inspiring!

by Cathy Hansen, special to Aerotech News
This year the East Kern Cemetery District and the Mojave Transportation Museum Foundation joined together to organize the Memorial Day Ceremony.

At 11 a.m., May 31, everyone noticed an aircraft coming towards the cemetery from Mojave Air and Space Port. It was a World War II trainer aircraft, a North American T-6. Nothing sounds like a T-6 flying over and it was a perfect surprise to the beginning of our Mojave Memorial Day Ceremony.

I recognized the aircraft and knew right away that our friend Dave VanHoy was giving us a salute to those who gave their all. It was a spot on way to honor our fallen patriots. Dave told me later that he knew our speaker, Bob ‘Stambo’ Stambovsky usually did a flyover for the ceremony, but since he was a key participant in the ceremony, he wouldn’t be flying this year. “I knew the slot was open, so I decided a flyover was an important part of the ceremony,” VanHoy said. He was correct, the flyover set the tone for each person who participated in the ceremony.

Victor Yaw and Leon Ryder place a wreath at the Mojave Memorial Day ceremony. (Photograph by Shirlee Wilson)

Welcome and Introductions
East Kern Cemetery District General Manager, Paul Holzer and his crew had placed 511 American Flags on graves of U.S. military veterans buried at the Mojave Cemetery the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.

Holzer gave a welcome address to those gathered and said, “Thank you for being here today to help celebrate the lives and legacies of those we have lost — lost, but never forgotten and always revered. You are doing an important thing today simply by being here. You are not forgetting the sacrifices made for our freedoms.”

“I pray that as a country, we haven’t lost our focus. I hope we haven’t forgotten the reason that we take the time to stop on Memorial Day — to respectfully and reverently remember those who gave up their last breath and hope of a future, was so that we could enjoy each and every day,” Holzer said.

He cited the names of Mojave residents who were killed in action, including; Marine Corps Pfc. Gerald Lynn Johnson, who was only 21-years-old when he was killed in Vietnam in 1968. He is listed on the Vietnam Wall at Panel 47E, Line 022.

Marine Corps Pfc. Fernando Hannon who died on Aug. 15, 2004, of injuries sustained in enemy action in Anbar province, Iraq. He was 19, and his parents still live in Mojave.

Victor Yaw and Leon Ryder slate the Fallen Soldier Memorial at the Mojave Memorial Day ceremony. (Photograph by Shirlee Wilson)

Invocation, National Anthem and flag salute
The Invocation was given by Pastor Charles Lowery from the Heirs with Christ Church in Mojave. Lowery served in the U.S. Army with the 101st Airborne during the Cuban Missile Crisis and was called up to active military duty during that time.

“We gather here today at this place to remember and never forget our fallen heroes, those who fought and died to keep these freedoms that we enjoy every day,” Lowery prayed. “Let us not only today, but every day remember that our freedoms came with a great price of many young men and women who sacrificed their lives for this great country – our United States of America.”

The National Anthem was delivered by Tim Lomba of California City, who served in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Flag Salute was led by Mojave Transportation Museum Foundation President, Cathy Hansen.

Letters were read from elected representatives, including: Congressman Kevin McCarthy, California State Senator Shannon Grove and East Kern Field Representative Joshua Foster from Kern County Second District Supervisor Zack Scrivner”s office presented comments from the Supervisor.

Robert ‘Stambo’ Stambovsky, U.S. Army Medic and Marine Corps chief warrant officer, was the keynote speaker at the Mojave Memorial Day ceremony. (Photograph by Shirlee Wilson)

Keynote Speaker
This year’s keynote speaker was Robert ‘Stambo’ Stambovsky — U.S. Army Medic and Marine Corps, chief warrant officer. A Vietnam combat veteran, commissioned from the ranks, and served as an aircraft maintenance and operations officer with Marine Air Group 46, Detachment B, at Edwards.

He joined the Marine Air Reserve in November 1968, Marine attack squadron-142, Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., while completing college. Previously, he had three years active as a US Army Medic in Southeast Asia and was honorably discharged in June 1967.

Stambo has held his commercial pilot rating since 1970, and also holds his Certified Flight Instructor, Instrument Instructor, Multi Engine Instructor, Airline Transport Pilot ratings and is a jet warbird instructor pilot.

He has earned both a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Aeronautical Science, through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Originally from Massachusetts, Stambovsky reminded everyone of the battles Americans have fought with an outline:

1. Concord (first shot), Valley Forge, Trenton, and Princeton
2. Battle of New Orleans — 1812-1814, Barbery coast/Tripoli
3. Halls of Montezuma (1845)
4. Civil War-Gettysburg, Shiloh, Antietam, Morris Island (54th Mass infantry.)
5. Spanish-American war — Teddy Roosevelt, San Juan Hill
6. World War I — Doughboys, Devildogs (Battle of Belleau Wood)
7. World War II — Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Midway, Wake Island, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, D-Day/Cherbourg/Paris, Ramadan Bridge, the Rhine, victory over evil
8. Korea — Inchon, Chosin, Mig Alley, 38th parallel
9. Vietnam — Pleiku, Nha Trang, Bien hoa, A Shau Valley
10. Beirut, Iraq, Afghanistan (Bagram); and he stressed the necessity of vigilance to maintain our freedoms. He ended his talk with a salute to all of the men and women who gave
their all for us.

Commander John Williams of the Mojave California Highway Patrol gave a short and inspiring talk about why he wanted to work on this holiday. “I was told that I could have this day off,” said Williams. “But, I said no, I want to work to honor those who gave their all. This is an important holiday, a day to remember how so many gave their lives willingly so we could live in freedom.” (Photograph by Shirlee Wilson)

Mojave CHP Commander
Commander John Williams of the Mojave California Highway Patrol gave a short and inspiring talk about why he wanted to work on this holiday.

“I was told that I could have this day off,” said Williams. “But, I said no, I want to work to honor those who gave their all.”

“This is an important holiday, a day to remember how so many gave their lives willingly so we could live in freedom,” said Williams.
Gold Star Mother
After a moment of silence and prayer for all of America’s POWs/MIAs, a plaque was presented to Mojave’s Gold Star Mother, Hilaria Hannon, which read: “With respect to Hilaria Hannon, Gold Star Mother, for her sacrifice, service and Patriotism. A Mother’s grief is forever. Mother of Marine Corps Pfc. Fernando B. Hannon. Family friend, Tony Barragan gave a bouquet of flowers to Mrs. Hannon and sat with her at the grave of her son, Fernando.”

Vietnam Veterans, Victor Yaw and Leon Ryder of Mojave placed the Memorial Wreath at the Fallen Soldier Statue located on the west side of Mojave Cemetery.

Everyone stood at attention as Paul Holzer raised the flag from half-staff to full-staff, Taps was played. Tim Lomba led the attendees in singing God Bless America.

After the closing prayer, coffee and donuts, donated by Stoken’s Donuts of Mojave, were served by the Mojave Senior Citizens.

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