By Dennis Wyatt email@example.com
Brigadier General Jack Hagan is attending Sunday’s Not Forgotten Memorial Weekend Commemoration at Woodward Park.
He’s the highest ranking military personnel yet to attend the annual event that Pentagon officers have said is the largest Memorial Day event of its type west of the Mississippi River.
The Vietnam veteran who now serves as the commanding general of the California State Military Reserve will attend the main ceremonies starting at 1 p.m. after the arrival of the Gold Star Families caravan escorted by Manteca Police and 300 Patriot Riders — double last year’s contingent.
Hagan wasn’t able to confirm his attendance until several days ago.
The main speaker is Steve Scheibner, commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and First Officer for American Airlines.
Scheibner was scheduled to fly as the first officer on American Airlines Flight 11 on Sept. 11, 2011.
But then Scheibner was bumped by a more senior pilot — Tom McGuiness — who ended up being in the seat he was supposed to have occupied that fateful day when Flight 11 became the first of two passenger airplanes to be flown into the World Trade Center.
Scheibner has authored the book “In My Seat” about the events of that day.
He is also speaking at the 6 p.m. service Saturday at The Place of Refuge, 486 Button Ave., and at the 9 and 10:30 a.m. services at Calvary Community Church, 815 W. Lathrop Road.
Organizer Pastor Mike Dillman noted there will be 1,500 chairs set up in anticipation of the largest crowd ever for the ceremonies that are starting two hours earlier than usual. Last year 30,000 people attended the various events throughout the day.
There are also double the exhibits with 67 booths this year. In addition the Chris Braley/Wounded Warrior Run sponsored by In-Shape has also doubled its numbers with pre-registration pushing 1,000 participants compared to 500 runners last year.
The Traveling Tribute panel highlighting Lieutenant Emily Jazmin Tatum Perez who was killed eight years ago while serving America in Iraq is being rededicated this year.
Her parents David and Vicki Perez will attend the dedication of the panel carrying their daughter’s West Point graduation portrait.
Perez was the first female minority Cadet Command Sergeant Major in the history of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
She was born in Heidelberg, West Germany to military parents of African American and Hispanic descent. As a high school student, she worked with the Peace Baptist Church to help establish an HIV-AIDS ministry after family members contracted the virus. The 2001 graduate of Oxon Hill High in Maryland served as wing commander of her school’s JROTC.
Perez maintained a grade point average that allowed her to wear the academic Star and Gold wreath during her entire career at West Point. She graduated in May 2005 in the top 10 percent of her class. She was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army as a Medical Service Officer.