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Turlock honors its veterans
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The Turlock Honor Guard presents the colors at the Veterans Day ceremony held Monday at Central Park (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

Turlock resident and Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy Levens made evident on Monday just how much of an impact U.S. military veterans have had on the community. During the city’s annual Veterans Day ceremony, he asked those in attendance to stand if they have ever served in the U.S. Armed Forces. He then asked spouses of veterans to stand. And children of veterans. And then those who have had a brother, sister, cousin, aunt or uncle serve to stand. There was nary a person left seated.

Levens’ demonstration was a simple one, but effective. While Turlock may not be known as a military town, its residents have deep roots in service to the country.

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Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy Levens talks about what it means to be a veteran (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

Monday’s event included a presentation of colors by the Turlock Honor Guard, the recognition of veterans in attendance from each of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, patriotic songs performed by the Pitman High School Choir and a flag folding ceremony presented by Boy Scout Troop #451.

Featured speakers for the ceremony included someone actively serving in the military (Levens), along with Rear Admiral Michael Seward (Retired) and City Councilmember Nicole Larson, who shared her experiences as the child of a veteran.

Levens is going on 14 years in the Army and has served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and he’s currently serving in “Operation Enlist Your Kids and Grandkids,” he said with a smile.  

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World War II Navy veteran Wally Sanford (front) stands with fellow veterans during Monday’s event (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

“A veteran, whether he’s active duty, he’s discharged, retired or reserved is someone who at one point in his or her life wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for the amount of up to and including his or her life. I have a T-shirt with that written on it. I thought it was a cool shirt at first. Then, I started to really understand the shirt and the meaning behind it and that’s a lot. That’s a lot that you give,” said Levens.

“We served and fought not because we hate what’s in front of us, but because we love what’s behind us,” he continued.

Seward acknowledged the city’s ongoing dedication to honoring its veterans year-round.

“Turlock is not just veteran-friendly, it’s pro-veteran. When you go down Countryside Drive and you see all of those pictures of the youth from this community (on the Active Military Banners) up there, that is an amazing thing…The fact that they meet with our veteran organizations all the time, the city does, not only your current Council but your predecessors, is wonderful. This is very unique and it’s a tradition that we, as veterans, hold dearly to us,” he said.

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City Council member Nicole Larson shares her thoughts on being the child of a veteran (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

Larson, while not a veteran herself, said she is proud of the time her father spent in service to his country.

“I was fortunate enough in my lifetime to hear stories in my childhood of Americans close to me who took the oath, to know what that means to the individual and the entire family behind those individuals,” said Larson.

She went on to charge veterans to continue to share their stories with the next generation.

“I’m not sure a ‘thank you’ one day a year is sufficient for the sacrifice we watched our loved ones and some have given. So, my challenge for you and the challenge for myself — my civilian self — is to make sure that it does not stop today. In today’s day and age where it is so easy to get caught up looking forward to the next thing on our to-do lists, in a world that is constantly making us move faster and quicker, take moments to be thankful and to be grateful, and, most importantly, to be humbled by the sacrifice of others,” said Larson.

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Turlock Boy Scout Troop #451 presents a flag folding ceremony during Monday's Veterans Day event (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

“My challenge to those who have served and were fortunate enough to come back home: Please talk about it. Please tell people like me and like them about it. Talk to the younger generation about your experience. Because what I fear the most is the day that we forget what it took to be where we are today in this great nation.”