‘Every day is Memorial Day’

Patty Gutierrez is surrounded by her family, from left, Andrew,

One by one, former American Legion Cmdr. Nick Marquez read
through the names in the Roll Call of Honor, a list of dozens of
Gilroyans who lost their lives serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
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One by one, former American Legion Cmdr. Nick Marquez read through the names in the Roll Call of Honor, a list of dozens of Gilroyans who lost their lives serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Some perished as far back as World War I. The deaths of others – such as Jeramy Ailes and David Gutierrez – remain fresh in the hearts of their families and friends.

“Every day is Memorial Day, if you can imagine,” said Joel Ailes, father of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jeramy Ailes, who died Nov. 15, 2004 during efforts to root out insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq.

Joel Ailes was one of approximately 75 people who gathered Monday morning in St. Mary Cemetery on Memorial Day to pay respect to fallen U.S. military members in a remembrance ceremony. Later that morning, thousands lined 10th Street to celebrate the holiday with a parade that featured a multitude of American flags, patriotic floats and an aircraft flyover.

“It’s still surreal,” said Patty Gutierrez, whose husband, Army Staff Sgt. David H. Gutierrez, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Christmas Day 2009. “During the rest of the year, we’re typically fine. When it comes time for Memorial Day, we need the support. The support is what keeps us smiling.”

Gilroy resident Rosalind Taylor said she had attended the Memorial Day remembrance ceremony for eight years and has placed roses on soldiers’ graves for the past four.

“It’s true that I didn’t know these soldiers, but they didn’t know me either and they still gave their lives for my freedom,” she said. “I can miss the parade, but I don’t miss this.”

Residents and visitors flooded 10th Street between Monterey Road and Gilroy High School for a two-hour parade in which Gilroy and regional organizations celebrated all things military in their own fashions.

The Gilroy Fire Department rolled out a 1923 fire engine, while the Gilroy Police Department elicited “oohs” and “ahhs” from paradegoers as the BearCat armored vehicle crept along the route.

Tiffani Petersen, the 2011 Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen, and her court waved regally to the crowd, including small children playfully fighting over candy tossed their direction. Small, impromptu dance sessions broke out as the Watsonville Community Band marched by.

“I’ve gone to the parade my whole life, I don’t remember not coming every year,” said Danielle Zappa, 19, whose father served in the U.S. Air Force for four years.

Some stressed reverence and remembrance of fallen soldiers even while residents laughed and danced while enjoying an afternoon of events that included a car show and family fun day at Christmas Hill Park.

Ruben Sanchez, who watched the parade from his garage on 10th Street said he was amazed and delighted by the number of people watching the parade.

“It feels like there’s more people than in years past,” he said. “It’s getting bigger every year.”

Parade winners:

1st place equestrian: Rancho del Toro, Rancho del Western

1st place float: Hula Ohana

1st place marching group: Gilroy Girl Scouts

1st place motorcycle: Patriot Guard Riders

1st place musical and entertainment: Suzuki Violin Studio and Watsonville Community Band

1st place professional organization: First Street Coffee and Pacific Coast Recycling

1st place show cars: Isi Quistian

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