With special activities over the last several days, the Escalon community and surrounding area paid special tribute to the region’s veterans, culminating with a parade and ceremonies on Monday, Nov. 11.
At Escalon High School, a Friday afternoon assembly included recognition for local veterans, the introduction of students headed for the military after graduation, war and service recollections from retired military members and more.
A flag folding ceremony was conducted by Escalon American Legion Post 263 members and an explanation was given for the school’s most distinguished honor presented at graduation, the Wendell Eliason Award.
Wendell Eliason was a graduate of Escalon High School, a standout student and athlete, killed in Vietnam when his helicopter was shot down on March 31, 1965. He was 24 years old and was the first from this area to give his life in Vietnam.
Each year, one graduating senior is selected to receive the award named in his memory. The student must exhibit the qualities of citizenship, leadership, conduct and service that Eliason was known for during his life.
A skit by the Peer Interaction Team as part of the Friday assembly offered a view of a very different world, one in which freedom was taken away and the flag folding ceremony featured an explanation of what each fold means.
On Monday, Nov. 11, the community gathered downtown for a festive parade, which stepped off at 10:30 a.m. after the sounding of the ‘air raid’ siren at the Escalon Historical Society Museum on Main Street.
Veterans, school groups, local politicians and more made their way from Coley Avenue to First to Main, with a small squadron of vintage military aircraft also ‘buzzing’ the Main Street crowd a couple of times.
Grand Marshal this year was veteran Angelo Blanco and special recognition was also provided to women veterans, with Manteca resident Lisa Lisa, a 12-year Navy veteran, leading the way for the American Legion Riders aboard her motorcycle.
Veteran Ralph Verschoor raised the flag at the historic Main Street caboose, then lowered it to half-mast as Taps was played. Following the parade, the crowd moved to the Community Center, for a service at the Veterans Memorial Wall, the laying of a wreath, and a 21-gun salute. Mike Anderson, representing Congressman Jeff Denham, read a statement from the congressman thanking all veterans for their service and Pastor Chuck Roots, who served both in the Navy and Marines, was keynote speaker.
“We are Americans and as Americans, we must stand together,” Roots said, encouraging the community to support its veterans and active military.
“Whether they enlisted or were drafted, they had to put their lives on hold,” he said of those serving. “They were willing to surrender their lives, up to and including giving their own lives, so that we can live and breathe the air of freedom.”