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Pageantry, Patriotism Offer Salute To Veterans
From the planes buzzing Main Street prior to the parade to the heartfelt "thank you" to veterans offered by one of their own, Escalon's Veterans Day festivities hit all the right notes on Thursday, Nov. 11.

As residents gathered for the 10:30 a.m. parade along Main Street, three commemorative Air Force 'L' birds approached from the east, coming in lower than most would have thought possible, seemingly scraping the tops of the highest trees lining the street. They made more than one pass and, on the final one, coming back from the west, the last plane in the formation featured a special guest on board, with a quick glimpse of Santa Claus visible to those below.

It was a memorable way to kick off the half-hour long parade, which led into a day of activity to celebrate veterans and their service to this country and community. Activities were coordinated and hosted by members of the local American Legion Gustafson-Thompson Post, with assistance from the American Legion Riders and other community helpers.

Also seen in the air, circling in the skies above Escalon for a half hour or so before the parade, was a PT17 bi-plane piloted by an aviator out of Columbia and later, at the city's Community Center, a Harpoon Navy Patrol plane, on its maiden voyage and one of only three in existence, flew low and circled the crowd at the Memorial Wall.

The parade itself featured Grand Marshal Leonard Pereira riding in a 1950 Packard with some members of his family, including his daughters, also along for the ride. His son, Bill, was unable to attend.

Escalon Community Ambulance, Escalon Fire Department, Little Miss and Mr. Escalon, Senior Mr. and Mrs. Escalon, Valley Home 4-H, Miss Escalon, El Portal and Escalon High marching bands, Assemblyman Bill Berryhill and county supervisor Ken Vogel were just a few of those that made their way along the parade route.

Local resident Ken Terpstra also led a procession of military vehicles, from ambulances to transport trucks, and more than one motorcycle group thundered along Main.

Sacramento resident Marlet Stanford said she, her husband and father - who is a veteran - were on their way to spend the day in Yosemite but the flags lining Main Street drew their attention while they were passing by on Highway 120.

"Then we saw the people lining up for the marching band and I said, 'hey, do you guys want to stop?' " Stanford said of taking a little detour.

She explained that her father served 24 years in the military, both in the Navy and the Air Force and was in the Vietnam War. She was pleased with the chance to happen upon the parade and said she took several photos of the flag-lined Main Street to help remember the scene.

"This is really cool," she said following the parade, coming to the reviewing stand to meet with local veterans. "Thank you for putting it on. It was very nice, and it made our Veterans Day."

A brief ceremony during the parade saw the flag at the flagpole adjacent to the historic caboose in Main Street Park lowered in honor of those lost, with the playing of Taps.

After the parade, the crowd then adjourned to the Community Center, with the traditional rifle corps salute, the placing of wreaths at two memorials and remarks by Command Sergeant Major Michael H. Winstead of Riverbank, who serves with the California National Guard.

"I'm just a simple soldier," Winstead said. "I'm humbled ... I look out and see veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam ... spanning the entire spectrum of what service is all about."

Winstead added that Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day and was designed to honor soldiers from World War I, the 'war to end all wars.'

But since war didn't end there, the observance eventually grew into Veterans Day, a day to honor all that served.

Along the way, Winstead said, many lessons have been learned, specifically when it came to Vietnam.

"Soldiers do not make policy," Winstead said. "They (Vietnam vets) were blamed for the policies of the government.

"Whenever I get a chance to stand up in front of a crowd, to the Vietnam veterans I say 'welcome home and thank you' for what you contributed to America at that time," Winstead added, to applause from the assembled crowd.

Also on hand at the Community Center for the service and the barbecue chicken dinner that followed was Adeline Ellison, who was a WASP in World War II, a civilian female pilot, who was involved in making test flights of aircraft as well as delivering the planes.

Originally from Illinois, Ellison, 91, was one of those WASP members presented with the Congressional Gold Medal in ceremonies in Washington, DC in March of this year.

"My job was to fly military aircraft from California all over the U.S., deliver them to wherever they needed them," Ellison said. "I flew training bombers, the B24, B25, B17. We were working for the Air Force but we were civilians."

Ellison said 38 women died in training runs but never received the recognition they deserved, until the military declared them veterans in 1977 and, this year, presented the medals in honor of their service and sacrifice.

After her flying days were over, Ellison said she got married, had two children and served some time in the Air Force Reserve.

"One day I was having a cup of coffee with the colonel," she said, adding that the conversation eventually included talk of her children.

It was then she learned she couldn't even be in the reserves if she had children, unless she gave up them.

"I did not put them up for adoption," she said of her children, smiling. "I got an honorable discharge."