Flags waving. Bands playing. Families lining parade routes and pastors preaching at their pulpits took a moment Sunday to thank those who served. The crisp, clear day shone a sunny spotlight on men and women who came when the nation called.
Modesto's Veterans Day Parade drew families to Needham Street for a poignant salute.
"We wanted to honor veterans. It's the least we can do," said Jennifer Olsen.
Her 11-year-old son, Jonah, had his eye on the trucks. "Most were troop transporters," he said with relish.
There were trucks aplenty, as well as fire engines, horses and the 1956 American Legion locomotive that's a staple in the annual march, passenger Mike Sasso said.
Standing with her mother, Andrea De Santiago said she comes every year.
"We're very blessed to live in this country and have men and women who defend it," she said. "It's important to honor our vets and have the young people see it."
Her son, 11, was in the parade with the U.S. Navy League Cadet Corps.
Gulf War vet Manuel Melendez Jr. stood with his family in Marine fatigues. Melendez said that when he returned in 1994, he avoided Veterans Day events. They brought back too many memories.
Now, he wants his kids to carry on a family tradition of service. "We've had a family member in every skirmish this nation's had," Melendez said.
Beside him, Diego, 12, wore his dad's old green uniform, complete with marksmanship badge. Sons Antonio, 14, and Manny, 19, wore workaday camo. Manny Melendez said he plans to join the Marines after college.
Vietnam vet Jack Able said he was glad to see the community rallying around its service members. "We got spit on coming back," he said.
Fellow veteran Steve Grenbeaux responded that the change, in part, was their legacy.
"The Vietnam vet's lot in life was to convince people: Don't take it out on the troops. You can blame the politicians. Honor the troops," Grenbeaux said.
The parade ended at Graceada Park, where booths offered military mementos and a ceremony focused on veterans services, ending with a patriotic sing-a-long. Parade grand marshal Ruby Brawley was honored as Veteran of the Year by the Stanislaus County Veterans Service Office.
Grilling linguica for sandwiches beside parked Model A's from the parade, Bill Goulart of Riverbank said proceeds from his booth would buy bricks for the veterans services building. Goulart said he will be sending about 200 packages of food to troops again this holiday season.
Goulart emigrated from Portugal 51 years ago and his son now serves in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.
"I go an extra 100 miles for our troops," Goulart said. "This life, the life that I enjoy in my retirement. They gave it to me."
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2339, and on Twitter, @NanAustin.
VETERANS DAY OBSERVANCES
Veterans Day was Sunday, but today is a holiday for many workers and students. Here is a list of events throughout the region to honor active and retired members of the country's armed forces:
Don Pedro Reservoir
Through Wednesday: The Don Pedro Recreation Agency, 10200 Bonds Flat Road, La Grange, is honoring active U.S. military personnel and veterans with free admission. Military members and their families will have full use of all camping facilities and use of the lake. Camping reservations are not required, but can be made by calling (209) 852-2396, ext. 3.
Today: An 11 a.m. program at Manuel Valverde Park, 15557 Fifth St., will include guest speaker Master Sgt. Trisha Backers, a performance by the Lathrop School choir and the posting of colors by the Lathrop High School JROTC. Call (209) 941-7370.
Today: At 10:30 a.m., a program will be held at Veterans Memorial Park, at Locust Avenue and South First Street. The main speaker will be Marine Corps Col. Adrian W. Burke. The emcee will be Ernest Tyhurst, first vice commander of the American Legion Post 190. Call (209) 599-0050.
Today: The first Honoring Our Veterans Golf Tournament will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Stevinson Ranch, 2700 N. Van Clief Road. It benefits the Wounded Warrior Project. There will be special recognition for all veterans and active-duty military members. Dinner and raffle follow. Cost is $120 per player, four-person scramble, and includes on-course events, a sack lunch, prizes, live music and dinner. For more, call (209) 585-9508.
Today: Yosemite National Park will offer free admission to all visitors in honor of current members, retired members and reserve members of the U.S. armed forces and their families.