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Veterans First Has Opened
Duke Cooper of Oakdale, center, and Ride 2 Recovery bicyclists showed their support for veterans and first responders at the grand opening celebration held this past Saturday at Veterans First on Patterson Road in neighboring Riverbank. VIRGINIA STILL/THE LEADER


The opportunity for the public to thank a veteran and first responders occurred this past Saturday at the Grand Opening celebration of Veterans First on Patterson Road in Riverbank. The festivities began at 9 a.m. with an opening prayer. With approximately 80 to 100 people that stopped by throughout the day, the Veterans First building buzzed with positive energy, kindness, and support.

This new initiative of the Veterans First was brought to the community by Duke Cooper, a Marine Corps veteran, who said it is designed as a place where he would like veterans and first responders to know that they can hang out enjoy some exercise or camaraderie.

There is exercise equipment currently in the building and they will be adding a pool table. There is no cost or membership fee to enjoy the amenities.

Project HERO (Healing Exercise Rehabilitation Opportunity) Ride 2 Recovery bike riders hit the streets a little after 9 a.m. and made their way to the 50s Roadhouse in Knights Ferry for a 48-mile round-trip ride. This project began in November 2010 and provides rehabilitation for injured servicemen and women with cycling.

To Cooper’s pleasant surprise, a representative from area Congressman Jeff Denham’s office presented him with a certificate of special congressional recognition for Veterans First.

“This blew me away,” expressed Cooper. “This will be framed and will go on the wall.”

Steve Patrick with Steve’s Stucco Inc. in Ceres provided all the food which included polish sausages, chips, cookies, and water.

Guests were welcome to enjoy the food and mingle with the veterans during the celebration.

Along with I Heart Radio on scene for the celebration, there were two race cars on display, and some members of Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District Station 30 stopped by the event.

There were 22 care packages constructed that day that will be shipped off to active duty military overseas which reflects the 22 servicemen and women that commit suicide on a daily basis.

“We are trying to get this safe haven open five days a week,” said Cooper. “People were honking as they drove by to show their support and several people stopped by. Overall this was a great event.”