Remembrances - and special honor - at SF Memorial Day ceremony

A ceremony in San Francisco on Sunday honored those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the military.

Under a colorless sky, the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps Band of the West opened the event at Land's End.

"On Memorial Day, this holiday, we honor those who have given their lives, full measure of devotion, to our way of life," said U.S. Navy Capt. Travis Petzoldt.

They honored those who served on the USS San Francisco, one of the most decorated ships of World War II. It was among those involved in the Battle of Guadalcanal.

"I'm absolutely thrilled to be here," Petzoldt said. "The story of [USS] San Francisco and her service in World War II is one of those absolutely phenomenal stories. It's a very San Francisco story."

Steve Stevens of the USS San Francisco Memorial Foundation told those in attendance, "Because there's very few of these heroes left, it's left to us, the children, the family and the friends, to tell the story."

And a story was told of Harold Bray, the last surviving member of the USS Indianapolis. The ship was hit by two torpedoes in 1945.

Just 315 of the 1,195 members of the crew made it, making the sinking the greatest loss of life at sea in American military history.

"He spent five days in the water," said Debbi Bray, his daughter-in-law. "Navy never knew they were missing."

Bray spent three decades as a Benicia police officer and will turn 96 in June.

"He's sweet, he's nice. He joined the Navy at 17. His first thing was the Indianapolis. Who knew what would happen?" said Debbie Bray.

Jonathan Banks of the Marines Memorial Association said, "It's important for people to understand that the cost of freedom is not free."

Banks, a retired Marine Corps mastery gunnery sergeant said, "It is actually paid not in the price of hamburgers, hot dogs and picnics, but it's paid in the price of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and who have passed on before us."

Rame Hemstreet and his wife Leslie French paid their respects.

"The story of the heroism of these brave sailors and marines is compelling. I wish more people knew about it," French said.

Hemstreet is a retired Navy captain as well.

"This location means a lot to us," Hemstreet said. "USS San Francisco, Admiral Callaghan, a native of San Francisco. So we feel like Memorial Day, we do need to take some time to remember."

Henry Lee is a KTVU reporter. E-mail Henry at and follow him on Twitter @henrykleeKTVU and