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Sacrifice, Service Lauded In Friday Events
Raindrops threatened - but held off - as Escalon community members gathered on Friday to pay their respects to veterans, past and present, and salute those who have given so much in service to this country.

The annual Veterans Day observance in the city on Nov. 11 included a half-hour long parade from Coley to First to Main Street, after those gathering to watch were 'buzzed' a few times by vintage aircraft from the Commemorative Air Force. During the parade, there was a brief pause for ceremonies at the historic caboose adjacent to Main Street Park. There, veterans Don Silva and Ralph Verschoor lowered the flag to half-mast and Ken Miller provided a rendition of Taps with the ceremonial bugle. The parade then continued on its way and following the conclusion of the parade around 11 a.m., a brief service was hosted outside the Escalon Community Center starting at 11:30 a.m.

Earlier, as the crowd gathered on Main Street around 10 a.m. amid threatening skies, Roxanna Brown had a couple of grandsons in tow, armed with small American flags.

"We thank all the veterans today," said the Escalon resident, urging the boys to wave the flags as the parade passed by. "And every day."

From the Grand Marshals to the Homecoming Queen, the El Portal Panthers marching band to the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Posse riding on horseback, there were multiple entries in the parade, much to the delight of the huge crowd that lined the streets.

Grand Marshals were World War II veteran Jay Davis and Korean War veteran Albert Johnson, both members of the Escalon American Legion Gustafson-Thompson Post 263.

Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H clubs, even the Riverbank Naval Jr. ROTC joined the parade to offer thanks to local veterans, while the American Legion Riders and Harley Owners Group were among the motorcyclists revving their engines.

At the Community Center, guest speaker was Pastor Jim Davis of Escalon's Trinity Assembly of God Church, a U.S. Army veteran himself, who said it was an "honor and a privilege" to speak at the Veterans Day ceremony.

"We've always had citizens willing to stand up and serve," he said, noting the number of veterans in the audience. "I say 'thank you' for your service."

He said that there is a camaraderie in the Armed Forces that is hard to duplicate.

"It often defines our character and re-defines our path in life," he said.

While those veterans who served in Vietnam bore the sting of a nation that was predominantly against the war - and by default, the warrior - he noted that today, the country can support the soldier if not the battle.

"I often thought Veterans Day got the short end of the stick, holiday-wise," he added. "This is a day we need to recognize all those who served to protect us. It falls to an indebted nation to stand and say thank you."

Following the laying of wreaths at the Veterans Memorial Wall and at the monument to those Escalon soldiers lost in past wars, the Honor Guard provided a 21-gun salute.

American Legion Post Commander Tom Converse said the downtown parade, Community Center ceremony and chicken barbecue following the ceremonies to round out the day went off smoothly.

"I'm ecstatic about it," he said of the festivities. "The turnout was great, the rain held off for the parade and we appreciate all the support we get from the community."

Veterans, in turn, gathered later that night at Escalon High School's Engel Field to present the colors, as they do at all home football games, with the crowd cheering their respects.