The Sons of the American Legion hosted a Memorial Day ceremony in Cloverdale on May 27.
While the event was moved from its normal spot at the Cloverdale Cemetery to the Veterans Memorial Building, the seats were near-full of people there to honor Cloverdalians who have died while serving in the military.
Al Delsid, of Sons of the American Legion, was the event’s main speaker. Delsid recounted why Memorial Day is special to him.
“It started back in 1983 — I went and attended a Memorial Day service here in Cloverdale and I learned about a 20-year-old soldier from Cloverdale who was killed in Vietnam,” he said.
A few years later, he visited the Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
“I remembered the name of that 20-year-old from Cloverdale — his name was Duane Roy Baumgardner. I had never met Duane, I didn’t even know him, but we had a few things in common,” he said, listing the parallels between his live and Baumgardner’s. “We were both born in 1948, we were both in our high school wrestling teams, and we both graduated from high school in 1966, and believe it or not, we both got our draft notices in 1968.”
One main difference divides Baumgardner’s and Delsid’s draft history, however. Baumgardner was drafted into the U.S. Army, and “for some unknown reason I got my draft notice and in the same envelope I had another form that stated ‘postponement of induction until further notice,’” Delsid said. “Somehow the local drafter told me they were full, and I was told to standby — so I stood by and I stood by.”
“It’s because of this piece of paper, right here,” Delsid said, holding up the postponement paper he was sent 51 years ago, “It’s because of this paper that I’m standing here. Eventually, because of that paperwork, Duane Baumgardner lost his life. Duane was killed in action on June 2, 1969 — the same day I celebrated my 21st birthday.”
Quiet fell over the room as Delsid paused to gain his composure and members of the audience dabbed their eyes.
“That’s why Memorial Day has a special meaning to me — I didn’t know him, but we had a lot in common … next Sunday I’ll celebrate my 71st birthday and as always, I’ll remember Duane Baumgardner. Next Sunday will mark 50 years since that day on June 2, 1969 that Duane Baumgardner gave up his life in service to our country. It is because of his sacrifice that I now devote my time and energy in service to our country, our flag and our veterans.”
Following Delsid’s speech, the Veterans Memorial Building rung with the bells of the memorial roll call, commemorating Cloverdalians who were killed in action. The Sons of the American Legion’s rifle team then shot off a volley, followed by a presentation of “Taps.”