Federalsburg Lions Club honors local fallen heroes
FEDERALSBURG — Federalsburg Lions Club member Dave Morean could not fight the tears any longer during a surprise presentation for two fallen Federalsburg heroes at the organization’s annual crab feast Thursday, Aug. 24.
Morean broke down when presenting banners to the parents of fallen solders Michael Edward “Mikey” Yates Jr. and Manuel Antonio “Mannie” Ruiz.
Each banner features Ruiz and Yates in uniform, with their years of service and the branch they served in. The banners will hang in town, and the families also received a banner.
Ruiz, 21, was a U.S. Navy paramedic who died in a helicopter crash in February 2007 in Iraq. Ruiz was two weeks into his second tour of duty in the country.
Ruiz’s death inspired his parents, Lisa and Manuel Ruiz of Federalsburg, to first introduce in November 2007 the idea of honoring all of the town’s fallen heroes with a memorial.
In May 2009, the town lost its second native in the Iraq conflict, when Yates, 19, a Colonel Richardson High School graduate, along with four other military personnel were shot and killed by Sgt. John. M. Russell at a military counseling clinic at Camp Liberty in Baghdad. Russell was was suffering from combat stress.
Yates was serving as a cavalry scout assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, Grafenwoehr, Germany. He received a Bronze Star for his service.
Every year, his mother hosts a Liberty 5 Memorial Ride in honor of her son and the other five men that were shot that day; Army Spc. Jacob D. Barton, Army Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, Army Maj. Matthew P. Houseal and Navy Cmdr. Charles K. Springle.
“It is very special because they remember him and won’t let him be forgotten,” said Yates’ mother, Shawna Van Blargan who broke down in tears during the banner unveiling.”
“The community has stood behind us when this happened,” said Yates’ stepfather Rick Van Blargan. “They have stood behind the Ruizes when their son died. That means a lot for a community to care so much about Mikey and Mannie.”
The Van Blargans and the community also honored Yates with the Liberty 5 Memorial Ride Saturday, Aug. 26, at Johnny’s Tavern in East New Market. The ride went through the backroads of Caroline and Dorchester counties and parts of Delaware.
“We’ve worked very hard to make sure that nobody forgot the five that died that day,” Rick Van Blargan said. “It is heartwarming that they still remember, and put it in the forefront of their minds.”
Dedicated in 2013, the Federalsburg Hometown Veterans Memorial sits at the corner of Veterans Drive and state Route 318/313 and features a large, brick-paved circle with a five-point star in the center. A U.S. flag flies from a pole in the center of the star, while five poles around the circle fly the flags of each branch of the service.
While the paving bricks may be engraved with the name of any service member, the centerpiece of the memorial is four black onyx walls engraved with the names of those Federalsburg natives who paid the ultimate price while serving their country, and a large stone in honor of Ruiz.
When Morean unveiled the banner for Ruiz, Lisa and Manuel Ruiz each were moved to tears.
“This is a wonderful moment. Thank you to the Federalsburg Lions Club and the town of Federalsburg for all they have done to keep Mannie’s memory alive,” Lisa Ruiz said.
Manuel Ruiz said he is grateful to the town for honoring his son, and for helping to get the memorial built.
“We pursued the memorial because we wanted to keep the memories of our local veterans alive,” he said. “Our veterans, our heroes, are never forgotten.”
The veterans banners are the first of a campaign by the Lions Club to honor local soldiers.
“We hope to see many of these banners hanging throughout the town,” said Federalsburg Lions Club member Wayne Cole. “We wanted to honor these two young men tonight as our kickoff.”
Manuel and Lisa Ruiz, left, and Rick and Shawna Van Blargan hold banners they received from the Federalsburg Lions Club Thursday, Aug 24, in honor of their late sons.