There was quite the crowd at American Veterans First (AVF) this past Saturday on Patterson Road in Riverbank that gathered to commemorate the 76th Anniversary of D-Day and the heroes that stormed the beach of Normandy. With a combined effort from Ted Howze and Operation Compassion, AVF, Protecting Soldiers Rights and a sizeable number of volunteers, the D-Day Community Hamburger Feed was a huge success.
“What a great thing to do to celebrate the American spirit and our ability to overcome adversity,” said Howze about having the barbecue on D-Day. “We just pulled a community effort together to get this done. It was amazing.”
American flags lined Patterson Road and many vehicles driving by honked their horns.
“It was a great day,” stated AVF CEO Duke Cooper. “The comments that we kept getting was that they had not seen so many smiling faces at one time for several months. People were laughing and carrying on. It was a feel good day.”
There were people stopping by from 11 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., snagging a bag lunch with a homemade burger, chips, water, and a box of Girl Scout cookies at no charge. The free BBQ was open to everyone and there were guests stopping by from all around the Central Valley. Some would drive up and a volunteer would hand them a lunch and off they went. There were veterans in attendance from World War II, Vietnam, and Afghanistan along with other community members commemorating their valor and sacrifice on June 6, 1944.
“This wasn’t anything but about our war heroes from D-Day because back then those 17, 18, and 19-year-old young men,” explained Cooper. “About 90 percent that hit the beach in the first wave never got off the beach. You don’t forget people like that.”
Operation Overlord was the largest air, land, and sea operation by Allied Forces for the common goal of defeating Hitler and the Nazi regime during WWII.
In observance of the day, volunteers began making patties by hand at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, prepping food, and fired up the grill to feed as many people as possible. Operation Compassion received 500 pounds of hamburger that was donated by Sutter Hospital. The ongoing mission for Operation Compassion has been to help neighbors in the community including veterans, disabled veterans, and seniors so other partners within the community stepped up and donated goods for the cause.
“What really impressed me was the silent majority of salt of the earth Americans who showed up and wanted to help and serve people and didn’t want any recognition,” expressed Howze. “Everybody was there because they just wanted to do something great for the community.”
The idea for a barbecue to celebrate D-Day was created several weeks ago and with the community effort they were able to distribute approximately 1500 hamburgers. The first 500 people got homemade macaroni salad in their lunch as well. Originally the BBQ was going to run from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. but with all the support and participation the event continued until about 4:30 p.m.
“Everybody was very grateful,” stated Howze. “Even though Operation Compassion is an offshoot of our campaign we treat these events as very non-political events. People loved it. We did not hear a negative comment all day long.”
There were several leaders within the community that stopped by and with the show of support from guests and volunteers the event was truly a success and a much needed outing for many.