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On Monday, amid gray skies and sporadic bits of sunshine, more than 1,000 people gathered in San Francisco to pay tribute to the men and women, living and dead, of the U.S. military.
Gusty winds nearly uprooted some of the small American flags planted in front of the 26,400 white marble tombstones, even as larger flags billowed over the San Francisco National Cemetery of the Presidio. It was a day of somber remembrance.
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Kenneth Johnson of the National Cemetery Administration, which runs the San Francisco cemetery, said it’s vital to remember the legacies of the country’s service members.
“It is sad that we each die two deaths,” he said. “The first when breath leaves us for the first time and the last when someone speaks our name and tells our story.”
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Among those giving speeches and telling stories of family members who served in the armed forces was San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who said her grandfather served in the military during World War II, working in the the shipyards in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood.
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“Today, while we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in their service, we also honor our veterans who are still with us,” she said, “those who also returned only to struggle with homelessness and mental health issues on our streets.”
The observance began with a flag-raising ceremony at Pershing Square. The crowd waved and clapped in appreciation as veterans led a short march from the Presidio Officers’ Club to the cemetery, with many joining the procession. The formal ceremony opened with a four-gun salute and a rendition of the “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
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