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School hosts Veterans Day tribute
Virginia Parks Elementary School student Christopher Santana
Virginia Parks Elementary School student Christopher Santana invited his grandfather Mirl Morse to be honored along with other veterans at his school’s patriotic salute. The event was held Thursday morning in the school multi-purpose room.

Eight local veterans who once wore the uniform and retired felt were honored during a patriotic themed assembly hosted Thursday morning at Virginia Parks Elementary School in celebration of Veterans’ Day.

As she has done in the past, teacher Janet Stanhope organized the gym assembly where dads, grandfathers, grandfathers, uncles and other relatives of students were honored for their service to the nation.

“We want to say thank you for giving of your time, your courage for our country and our freedoms,” Stanhope told the veterans. “We hope that today you can enjoy this celebration and honor of you. The children are so, so excited and proud to have you here.”

The event featured the presentation of colors by the Color Guard, Zoey Mariscal singing the National Anthem and students singing several patriotic songs, including “This Land is Your Land,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “God Bless America.”

Members of the American Legion Post 491 demonstrated the procedure for flag folding and what each fold represents.

“The kids were very enthusiastic,” said veteran Morales, who spent three years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Members of the American Legion Honor Guard took their rifles outside the school gym to fire a 21-gun salute much like they do at the funerals of veterans. The three rapid volleys of gunfire excited students who could hear the reports through an open door.

There are approximately 27,000 military veterans living in Stanislaus County and 4,303 in Ceres.

Veterans who attended included:

• Yolanda Whited, who spent four years in the Army as a supervising secretary from 1989 to 1993;

• Dave Pratt who served in the Navy from 1966 to 1970 during the Vietnam War;

• Pete Samaniego, Guard Captain for the Ceres American Legion Post 491. He served in the Marine Corps from 1971 and a year later received orders to Vietnam but landed in Okinawa instead. He left the Marines in 1977.

• Commander Freddy Morales, who enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduating from high school in 1967 and spent a 13-month tour of duty in Vietnam from February 1968 through March 1969. 

• Shawna Moore, past commander of the American Legion post, an Air Force veteran;

• John Warren, who served in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 1966 to 1968 aboard the USS James E Kyes

The school and its students collected treats to be shipped to military personnel throughout the world. A “Drink Drive” had students donating 502 packets of hot cocoa, 70 apple cider packets and 413 packets of flavors for water. They also came up with 243 granola bars, pieces of candy and other snacks. Stanhope delivered the items to Operation Packing Company in Los Banos to be included in 100 boxes packing party to go out for the holidays to the troops.

Students also wrote letters of support and thanks for veterans.

VP Council
Reading about the history of Veterans Day and how it came to be were Virginia Parks Elementary School Student Council Officers Solange Smith, Danna Garduno, Izabella Gaona, Solange Smith and Mila Duran. At right is teacher Janet Stanhope who organized the event.