Tribute to the fallen heroes |

Tribute to the fallen heroes

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily TribuneJohn Filas unfurls the flag for the holiday ceremony at Happy Homestead Cemetery.

The sky blanketing South Lake Tahoe may have been clear of clouds, but the tears of Memorial Day flowed as more than 70 people gathered to pay tribute to fallen soldiers at the Happy Homestead Cemetery on Monday.

The bittersweet ceremony — the 52nd for the South Shore American Legion Post 795 — began with Margo Osti singing an angelic version of “America the Beautiful.”

Flags waved across the cemetery grounds to mark the veterans’ graves. There were 10 more this year than last May.

Speaker after speaker reflected on the ultimate sacrifice paid by those who lie in rest, at yet again a time in which the will of U.S. policy overseas comes toe to toe with another regime.

“Let us transfer our devotion to war into devotion of peace,” 1st Vice Cmdr. Paul Lyman said, while his voice cracked with emotion.

VFW Cmdr. Richard Hughes reminded the assembled group that “freedom is not free” for the mix of varying races, creeds and colors who fought for America’s freedom.

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“We, as a nation, have to shoulder the cost. Let us be reminded of a new generation of patriots put to the test on the war against terrorism,” Hughes said.

Post Cmdr. Curt Emrie raised the deeds of the heroic dead with a steadfast pride.

“No horror of field nor sea nor air could beat their courage down. For those who rest in heroes’ graves have not died in vain,” Emrie said.

The moment of silence he led was so profound one could almost hear the grass growing as heads were bowed.

“Friends, remember this day is sacred for those who came before us. Let us renew our pledge of loyalty to the flag,” he added.

Wearing a red, white and blue jacket, Barbara Pulizzano allowed no doubt as to where her loyalty lies. The San Francisco woman, who with her husband, Mel, splits the year in South Lake Tahoe, said the ceremony had special significance for the couple this year given the conflict in the world.

“It’s because of the situation we’re in now. There’s so much drama going on. We just don’t know what the terrorists are going to do. I just wanted to come out for our country,” she said.

Her husband of 52 years was one of four brothers who served. He spent five years as an Army medic.

“His mother had four stars on her window,” she said, choking up at the thought of her mother-in-law’s Bay Area home.

Marjorie Springmeyer had an emotional homecoming of sorts yesterday morning.

Springmeyer was stirred by a combination of the service and the unfortunate discovery that vandals over the winter had cracked the windows of the ground’s cabin that houses the ashes of her parents, Knox William Johnson and Stella Van Dyke Johnson. The Johnsons — who died in 1931 and 1957, respectively — donated 2 acres along the Bijou Meadow to create the cemetery.

Springmeyer spent a few quiet moments at the scenic site, where her 3-year-old daughter, Constance, was buried.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at