Yesterday we observed Veteran's Day. Many visited cemeteries around the world -- Normandy, Arlington, and Stockton Rural Cemetery, too -- where little American flags were planted to remember and honor those who served our country. Some died in that service and never made it home.
Some of our Greek fore- fathers served even before becoming citizens. George Sarris was a young man who came to America in 1910 from Kyparissi, Lakonias. He was living in Crockett, CA, when he enlisted in 1918 for World War II and spent his army time at Ft. Kearny, CA. His discharge papers noted: "Character: Excellent" and "Horsemanship: Not mounted" (which doesn't quite explain the photograph). Papou Sarris married my grandmother Evghenia a few years later, and they moved to Stockton. The flag that decorated his coffin in 1964 was presented to The American Farm School at Thanksgiving in 1968 during my first year there.
Steve Xanttopoulos was 9 years-old when he came to San Francisco in 1929 from Naoussa, Imathias. He moved with his family to Stockton not long after, got married to his sweetheart Angeline, and worked hard before being drafted. He served as a "Buck Sergeant" (his own words) in the Pacific -- including parts of the Philippines now devastated by Typhoon Haiyan and where he earned the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with Bronze Star -- and somehow managed to learn to play golf on the side. Much later he was invited on a special trip that his friend Alex Spanos organized for Stockton Greek-American vets to visit the new WWII Memorial in Washington, DC.
Each family of Stockton area Greek-Americans has it's own history/ memories of service in the World Wars or later in faraway Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. We honor their service by remembering their sacrifices -- and can only imagine what it was like to serve in those trying times so far from home.
We should visit our cemeteries more often. Stockton Rural Cemetery is not just the keeper of bones. The history of local Greek-Americans is right there, if we just bother to look for it.