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Veterans honored at church-led ceremony
A crowd of about 50 braved a chilly wind at Whitmore Park Saturday morning to pay tribute to the sacrifice of veterans.

The third annual Veterans Day observance, which drew the very young and the very old, was hosted by the Ceres Ministerial Association.

Pastor Rob Hidahl of Central Valley Christian Church served as emcee and first asked for a moment of silence for the U.S. soldiers killed at Fort Hood, Texas, last week.

Pastor Steve LaFarge of Grace Community Christian Church delivered the address and spoke about those with courage. He likened the faith of brave soldiers to that of David in the Bible who took on giant Goliath in the epic Biblical battle.

"Today we celebrate those who rose above fear to show faith in battle," said LaFarge.

Vietnam veteran Lou Sims of Ceres recounted the number of brave U.S. veterans who received the Congressional Medal of Honor including Alvin York and Audie Murphy. He also noted that perhaps three or four World War I veterans survive today while World War II veterans are passing at a rate of thousands per day. Sims said the torch will be passed to the Korean War veterans as the oldest living veterans, followed by Vietnam War veterans and then Persian Gulf veterans.

Retired Ceres pastor Adrian Condit offered patriotic remarks and praise of veterans.

"I am glad to be an American, aren't you? Amen. I'd rather live here than anywhere in the whole world because we are still, with all of our faults, the greatest nation."

At the end of the ceremony, a 21-gun salute was fired in memory of fallen veterans followed by taps. Veterans were invited one by one to take a white dove, a symbol of peace, to be released when they were ready as a symbolic gesture. Among those taking a dove were Gene Welsh of Ceres, a World War II veteran. Welsh watched approximately 28 of his comrades die in battle against the Japanese in the Philippines. He was thinking of them as he released his dove and it flapped its wings high above the park.

Today at 9 a.m. downtown Modesto hosts a Veterans Day Parade. The parade will go down I Street onto 14th Street to Graceada Park.