The timing was just right for the very first Veterans Standing For American Patriotism movement led by organizer Duke Cooper of Veterans First in Riverbank. The gathering coincided with the United States Marine Corp’ 241st birthday, Thursday, Nov. 10 and was hosted at the Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto.
Cooper, who lives in Oakdale, expressed the message is that if you won’t stand for America, you will fall for anything and this movement is to help bring respect back to the American flag and support for the veterans that have fought and sacrificed for this great nation.
There were approximately 80 veterans and supporters that gathered between BJs and the Buffalo Wild Wings on Thursday and made their way as a unit into the mall where the festivities began.
“Great turnout, it will be bigger every time,” stated Cooper. “Bystanders comments were very powerful, brought tears to my eyes, made me think about our veterans and how important it is to respect the flag.
“I am proud to be involved in this event, humbled by all the veterans’ stories.”
Several people that were shopping at the mall stopped to see what all the veterans and supporters were doing, ultimately joining in the service of respect and support.
The event began with several veterans, brothers, widowers, and supporters gathered in a circle to honor a veteran that gave their life for this country. The small act reminding us all to not forget about those that are no longer with us and their ultimate sacrifice.
After the stories and the speeches were made, attendees all faced the two flags that were placed on the second story of the mall, visible from the first floor, and recited the pledge of allegiance that reverberated throughout the mall where it seemed as if everyone stopped to listen or join in.
The message of pride and patriotism was felt by several people that joined in song as Oakdale VFW Post 2922 member Danny Shatswell sang the National Anthem and God Bless America. Shoppers, stopping to pause, had their phones out to record the event or take pictures.
In an effort to help veterans heal, Cooper has also created a safe haven for veterans and first responders with Veterans First in Riverbank.
Mike Anderson, a liaison with Congressman Jeff Denham’s office, attended the event showing support for the veterans. Having served in the United States Air Force himself, Anderson showed his full support. He also knows the cost of war; his son Michael Anderson Jr. was in the United States Marine Corps and was killed in action in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.
All branches and all veterans were honored that day. There were several people cheering and applauding and several people that were originally bystanders stayed for the entire event.
The peaceful movement filled with patriotism and pride could be felt throughout the event and the statement that Cooper was hoping to make to take pride in and show respect for our country, flag, National Anthem, troops, and the veterans was made.
“Several people came up to the veterans with tears in their eyes, thanking them for their service,” noted Cooper. “Several said they wanted to be involved in any future events.”