Memorial Day Observances in Palo Alto and the Peninsula

From Alta Mesa Cemetery's Avenue of Flags to the Pete McCloskey's address at Golden Gate National Cemetery, Memorial Day observances are a morning tradition before the afternoon barbecues fire up.

What is Memorial Day? In countless cemeteries across the country, and in town centers, people gather to honor those who died in service to our country.

For many, Monday's activities begin in the morning, before the ubiquitous picnics and barbeques, with a Memorial Day commemoration.

You don't need to go a national cemetery, though the Golden Gate National Cemetery, with its plain white markers undulating with the gentle hillsides, first come to mind, because it is so visible from Interstate 280 in San Bruno. 

Fans of Paul N. "Pete" McCloskey Jr. might want to make the trek, since the eight-term maverick Peninsula congressman from the 11th District (before "maverick" acquired its current usage), was announced as speaker just Sunday. McCloskey, a Navy Cross and double Silver-Star holder, Korean War and Vietnam War veteran, and environmentalist who ran against President Richard Nixon, is scheduled to speak at 11 a.m.

At the Presidio, where the San Francisco National Cemetery is located, a parade, a flyover and a 21-gun salute are planned with an interfaith service.

Here is a list of observances in Los Altos and along the Peninsula:

  1. 22555 Cristo Rey Dr, Los Altos
    10:40 a.m. - Veterans Tribute; 11:00 a.m. - Memorial Day Mass.
  2. 695 Arastradero Rd, Palo Alto
    11:00 a.m. - Memorial Day service, chapel. This cemetery places 125 donated American flags along to make the "Avenue of Flags." They are usually flags that were on top of the casket of a serviceman or servicewoman, and were donated by the families.
  3. Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, 1100 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park
    Outdoor Mass - 11:00 am. Memorial Day Mass, Rev. William Myers, Celebrant
  4. 300 Grant St., Campbell;  9 a.m. -  Traditional Marine color guard and prayer, with special guest appearance by Chaplain Dave Walker, a decorated Vietnam veteran and a rescue worker at Ground Zero New York. Also in attendance will be the Band, as well as the Junior ROTC.
  5. 1300 Sneath Ln, San Bruno, CA
    10:30am - The Avenue of the Flags Committee invites all to join them for a Memorial Day observance called, "A Time to Honor Their Sacrifice."10:30 a.m. - Musical Prelude,  11 a.m. - Main Program
  6. San Francisco National Cemetery Montgomery Street and Sheridan Avenue, The Presidio of San Francisco; 10:30 a.m.- Parade; 11 a.m. Program at National Cemetery including a color guard, performance by a San Francisco barbershop quartet, a flyover by the U.S. Coast Guard, and will end with a 21-gun salute by U.S. Army Brigade, 75th Division, the Rev. John L. Young; 12:45 p.m. - service at Interfath Center of the Presidio Chapel and music. Groups include Sword to Plowshares, Troops to College. Park at the Main Post parking areas on Anza between Sheridan and Avenue and Banks Street and take the free shuttle service to National Cemetery.  For information, call (415) 561-5418.
  7. Union Cemetery Woodside Road, just east of El Camino Real, Redwood City.  10 a.m.  Memorial Day service at Union Cemetery in Redwood City.
  8. "Blue Star Museums," which give active duty personnel and their families free admission Memorial Day through Labor Day, kicks off Monday at museums across the country, and locally in the Bay Area from Los Gatos to San Jose to Palo Alto and beyond.

For those who have wondered about how Memorial Day is different from Veterans Day, here is some background about both:

  • Memorial Day is a day to remember those that have died while in service.
  • Veterans Day is a day to honor and thank veterans both living and dead for their service.
  • Memorial Day was formally known as Decoration Day because of the practice of decorating gravesites.
  • Memorial Day was first celebrated in 1866.
  • Veterans Day is also know as Armistice Day when it commemorated the end of World War I, or Remembrance Day in other parts of the world.
  • Veterans Day was first celebrated in 1919.

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