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Veterans Day Gathering Welcomes Record Crowd
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Community members turned out in record numbers, lining Pontiac Street on Thursday, Nov. 11 for the annual Veteran’s Day Parade and Ceremony. Participants of all ages were on hand showing appreciation for their service. Photo By Jeff Kettering

If it was ever a question it became quickly answered on Thursday, Nov. 11 as the community of Oakdale showed up in a big way to celebrate Veterans Day.

Hosted for the fourth year by the Oakdale Enrichment Society, partnering with the City of Oakdale, as well as local Veterans’ organization, Pontiac Street was packed with spectators as they awaited the parade. The fourth annual Veterans Day Parade began at the FES Hall, traveling west on Pontiac and ending at Fish Park.

As float riders disembarked and seats began to fill, a formal ceremony was hosted at the park. It was a true standing room only ceremony, as City of Oakdale HR Manager and US Navy Veteran Patrick Mondragon addressed the audience with a welcome.

“I’ll be serving as your master ceremonies for this event,” Mondragon said. “This ceremony will encompass many sacred and time honored traditions typical of military ceremonies.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, at this time, we ask you to please stand to observe the most sacred parts of the ceremony,” he continued. “Troop 43 of Oakdale will lead us and a posting of the colors, followed by the singing of the national anthem by Gracie Miller. Pledge of Allegiance led by Oakdale FFA officers Jenna and Jessica Sanders, an invocation given by Pastor Henry Raven.”

Long time Oakdale pastor and Army veteran himself, Henry Raven also contributed to the ceremony, offering a prayer which encompassed many and much.

“I pray that we will keep the families in our prayers and thank you for the service of those who are here and those who are with you,” Pastor Raven stated, further offering thanks and prayers for current as well as past soldiers and their families.

OES co-founder and current Oakdale Mayor Cherilyn Bairos was in her element on Thursday, surrounded by family, as well as community.

“As a proud daughter of a United States Army veteran and mayor of the best town around, thank you all for being with us today to celebrate our veterans,” Mayor Bairos said at the start of her speech. “Our veterans living in Oakdale have served in every branch of the military and in every era during peace and war. They contribute to the community at every level in the private and the public sectors.

“They possess courage, pride, selflessness, dedication to duty, integrity. All qualities needed to serve a cause much greater than oneself,” she continued.

The mayor asked family members of service men and women to stand for acknowledgement, closely followed by a request for all veterans to stand.

“We honor and thank you for answering the call of duty,” Bairos said. “I’ve long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism. Our nation will remain the land of the free only as long as it is the home of the brave.”

Mondragon returned to the podium and introduced guest speaker and Waterford resident Joshua Whitfield. Noted as a retired US Army scout and sniper, Whitfield penned an essay titled “Lessons of the Fallen” while recovering from an injury sustained by a rocket propelled grenade.

He has now shared the essay at speaking engagements a total of 31 times in 11 states.

Whitfield noted the writing of the speech, while recovering at Walter Reed Medical Center, was how he dealt with PTSD and facing the fact that the military career he had envisioned had come to an end.

“I do believe, now more than ever, even more importantly than the day I wrote this speech; this is not really about what I have to say to the country but it’s about what my fallen comrades and each and every fallen warrior in our country’s history is trying to say to the country today,” he shared with the audience.

Whitfield went on to present the speech and share with all in attendance.

“Days like today, often bring up thoughts and discussions of heroes. How do we define heroism, is the question I ask. What makes any one person heroic?” Whitfield read from his writing.

The Army veteran continued on, giving praise and acknowledgment toward the selfless who so bravely serve this country, noting that they do as a calling not for praise of heroism.

“It’s the very idea. It’s the very values that that flag represents. That is what the enemies of our country hate so very much,” Whitfield said. “You see the fallen were killed simply because they were Americans … may we never forget that.”

Additional speeches and presentations were then given, both educating as well as inspiring all in attendance.

It was an impressive showing of young and old for the fourth annual Veterans Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 11 as participants made their way from the FES Hall to the ceremony hosted at Fish Park. Photo By Jeff Kettering
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Oakdale Mayor Cher Bairos, right, was all smiles standing alongside Charlyn Damigo of the Mid Cal Blue Star Moms during the ceremony portion of the Oakdale Veterans Day event. Photo By Jeff Kettering