Families honor the dead at Memorial day ceremonyBy Joshua Melvin
Four years ago Nenita Manalese received word that her son, Spc. Michael Idanan had been killed in Iraq by an roadside bomb. On Monday she made sure that his loss isn't neglected.
"I just don't want him to just be forgotten," Manalese, a Daly City resident, said as wind whipped thousands of tiny American flags planted near the row upon row of white headstones at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno.
Manalese, who was among the hundreds who came to the cemetery for the yearly Memorial Day remembrance ceremony, presented a wreath of flowers during the event on behalf of herself and other mothers who have lost their children to combat. It was part of the speeches, music, poetry and military pomp to honor America's war dead.
Manalese said her son joined the Army when he was 17 1/2 to straighten himself out after drifting toward trouble while growing up in Daly City. By October 2005 he had already deployed to Iraq once and volunteered to return. Military life was working out for him. He called his mother two weeks before his death to say he would be promoted in December to the rank of sergeant. It was the last call he made to her. On Nov. 19, 2005, he was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee in Tikrit, his mother said.
"I don't feel he is gone," she said. "I always remember."
Idanan is one of only 20 members of the military who served in Iraq and Afghanistan to be buried in the cemetery that holds more than 100,000. Most of those interred at Golden Gate served in the military during previous conflicts, some going as far back the Civil War.
Families from all over the Bay Area came to remember their fathers, aunts, sons and mothers who have been laid to rest there. Livermore resident Larry McDonnell trimmed the grass near the headstone of his father, Alfred McDonnell, a Navy veteran who died in 1988. McDonnell, who stood beside his wife, Nadine, and son, Curtis, also planted a fresh bouquet of flowers in the grass. The family has made the same Memorial Day journey for the past 10 years.
"It's a good sense of pride for his grandson," Nadine McDonnell said.
South San Francisco resident Theresa Henwood stood at the back of the crowd that had assembled for the ceremony and listened to the speeches and music. Her father, James Emmitt Henwood, is buried there and her son was recently discharged from the Navy. She said she needed to be at the cemetery on Memorial Day.
"I stopped my day to be here," she said. She was packing in preparation to move into a new house, she said. "I'll go and finish my packing now. That's not as important an this."
Keeping the memory of those killed in action is also important for the next generation, said San Bruno resident Eileen Garcia, who was with her grandson. She said showing kids that Memorial Day is more than just a day off school matters.
"We don't want them to forget," she said.
Copyright ©2010 San Mateo County Times. Published 05/31/2010.