Santa Maria Memorial Day services include masks, social distancing

Santa Maria Memorial Day services include masks, social distancing

Spectators at a Memorial Day service at the Santa Maria Cemetery on Saturday wore masks and practiced social distancing as volunteers placed flags at individual veteran's grave sites. 

Volunteers included men and women veterans from the Band of Brothers/Echo Group nonprofit organization who gathered early Saturday morning to remember those who perished while serving on active military duty. 

Despite warm, sunny weather and clear skies, the service was quiet and dignified. 

The event holds particular significance to retired U.S. Air Force Capt. Mike Stadnick, 77, of Santa Maria, not only because he served but also because his birthday is May 30, which was traditionally Memorial Day up until 1970 when Congress changed the law to observe the holiday on the last Monday of the month. 

Stadnick estimated he has participated in at least 2,200 Memorial Day services since the 1950s, when he was an Eagle Scout in Connecticut, and continued even after serving 24 years in the Air Force, then another 20 in civil service. 

"Every veteran is my brother or my sister," Stadnick said. "They are not just veterans, and their families, to me, are part of my extended families." 

This year will be different because honor guards have practiced their coordinated movements using social distancing, Stadnick said, adding he wants individuals to respect public health guidelines against coronavirus. 

The service will continue at the cemetery, located at 1503 S. College Drive, on Monday starting 11 a.m. and will include a wreath-laying, bagpipes, prayer and a speech by keynote speaker Col. Anthony Mastalir, commanding officer of Vandenberg Air Force Base. 

A second Memorial Day event on Monday will be a color guard service from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge at 1309 N. Bradley Road. 

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The following is taken from the Santa Maria Police Department's calls-for-service log and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office daily arrest log. Those appearing as "arrested" are only suspected of the crime indicated but are presumed innocent.

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