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The Bakersfield Californian

Sephton Allen, 54, of Bakersfield

Military men and women came to Union Cemetery Monday to honor those they once knew and loved in battle. They shared their stories and thoughts about how veterans should be honored.

DANNY LOZA, 56, of Bakersfield, staff sergeant, U.S. Army.

Major combat? Loza was involved in the Gulf War in 1991 and the War in Iraq from 2004 to 2005.

"We pretty much saw everything. We provided force protection for military civilian convoys, so we had our share of small-arms fire, mortars, IEDs (improvised explosive devices). The unfortunate thing is that we had a few soldiers injured by these IEDs but nothing life-threatening."

Do veterans get enough respect? "A lot more than the Vietnam veterans did. Now they are starting to recognize the sacrifices because of the fact that now it's more of a volunteer army. The soldiers are there because they want to be."

Why celebrate Memorial Day? "It acknowledges all the sacrifices. ... I had several uncles that served in World War II, and they shared their stories with me. And it just kind of inspired me."

SEPHTON ALLEN, 54, of Bakersfield, colour sergeant, U.K. Royal Marines (equivalent to staff sergeant).

Major combat? "My first insight into combat was the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. I then served seven tours of Northern Ireland ... the Falklands War. I finished off with the first Gulf War.

"I've done everything from recruiting to heavy weapons to snipers to driving vehicles."

Do the English celebrate Memorial Day? "We don't have a Memorial Day. All we have is Armistice Day, Nov. 11."

Why celebrate Memorial Day? Allen said Americans honor their veterans much more than the British do.

"They should celebrate Memorial Day, especially with reference to family members that are servicemen."

ROBERT JOHNSON, 60, of Bakersfield, sergeant, U.S. Army.

Major combat? Johnson was in the Vietnam War for 19 months.

Do veterans get enough respect? "From their families, I think they do. I think it's a lot better than when I came back.

"I was in the San Francisco airport, and a guy was being shipped to Fort Carson to learn how to ski with one leg. This lady came up and said, 'This is what you get for fighting in a civil war.'

"I think the toughest part is coming back. ... We've had to fight for the benefits that we get."

Why celebrate Memorial Day? "To honor our dead. To not honor those who have got us here at this point of time is showing a lack of respect and not showing honor for our history."

ERNEST MORSE, 64, of Bakersfield, petty officer first class, U.S. Navy.

Major combat? Morse was involved in the Vietnam War.

Do veterans get enough respect? "I was always treated with courtesy and respect. ... I don't think people understand them well enough to give them the honor and respect that they deserve."

Why celebrate Memorial Day? "To honor those people who have sacrificed themselves to give us the greatest country in the world and gave us the freedoms we have to do the things we want to do the way we want to do them instead of being told by government how to do them."