Walt Butler stood before a group of approximately 30 area military veterans gathered at a Virginia Parks Elementary School assembly and issued them a "welcome home." He confirmed the patriotic sentiment after noting that some veterans - such as he and his fellow Vietnam War veterans - didn't hear that when they landed on American soil in the 1960s.
Children at the school also honored the dads, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and uncles of classmates during a special Friday gathering in the gym.
Larry Parshall, a 26-year Ceres resident, was invited by fifth-grade grandson Ryan Beffa.
Parshall served in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1969, working as mechanic on tanks while also being in charge of five tank crews in the Quang Tri province near the demilitarized zone.
"It was eye opening to an 18 year old," said Parshall of Vietnam. "You obviously grow up very quick, from 18 and 35, just like boom, boom, boom."
He said his war experiences changed his life and have been with him almost daily.
Roscoe Scarbrough, who was stationed in Germany while he served in the Army from 1965 to 1966, came to the ceremony at the invitation of grandsons Noah and Cooper Scarbrough.
Vanessa and Natalie Horton wore smiles on their face as they walked into the multi-purpose holding the hand of their hero and dad, Brandon Horton. He served in the Marines from 1997 to 2002 and now lives in Ceres.
Parshall dropped out of Modesto High School in 1967 at age 17, a listless soul who "knew everything and couldn't be taught anything." Fifty-four days after he turned 18 in 1968, Parshall enlisted in the Marine Corps and was sent to fight in Vietnam.
Last year the Stanislaus County Office of Education presented Parshall with a high school diploma in the Operation Recognition program.
Parshall did quite well in life without an actual diploma since he earned his GED when he first considered a career in the military. He later went to college and earned his associate degree in criminal justice at Modesto Junior College. At that time he was working as an officer with the Oakdale Police Department. He retired as an OPD lieutenant in 2007.
A slide show was shown depicting relatives of staff members serving in the military who could not be at the event.
The event featured the presentation of colors by the American Legion Color Guard and students singing several patriotic songs, including "Yankee Doodle Dandy," "You're a Grand Old Flag," and "God Bless America."
Chloe Ramirez sang the National Anthem.
Veterans took their rifles outside the school gym and fired a 21-gun salute much like they fire at the funerals of fallen veterans.
The three rapid volleys of gunfire excited the students who could hear the reports through an open door. The excitement was quelled by the sound of taps playing.