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Gold Star Families tribute May 15

Honoring families of those who gave their all

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Gold Star Families tribute May 15

Frank Aquila holds up a list of families that will be honored at the Never Forgotten event being held on May 15 to pay tribute to Gold Star Families and the loved ones that they lost at war. Joinin...

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin/


POSTED March 3, 2009 4:29 a.m.
Frank Aquila didn’t quite know what to do when he had heard that Manteca High graduate and United States Marine Charles Palmer was killed in Iraq.
His first instinct was to let the family grieve on their own – not being a bother during a time of extreme sadness.
But when Julie Conover of Tracy – who lost son and fellow Marine Brandon Dewey in Iraq – told him the worst thing that he could do is not make the phone call, he started to realize that maybe the words given to families who have had loved ones that make the ultimate sacrifice for their country don’t come frequently enough.
And he’s since been spending the last year-and-a-half putting together Never Forgotten: A Tribute to Local Gold Star Families and a dinner that will take place on Friday, May 15, at 5:30 p.m. at the First Assembly of God.
“I started to realize through the people that I had met that for these families the worst thing that they could ever have happen is let the memory of their loved one be lost,” said Aquila. “We go out every day as Americans and get to celebrate the freedoms that these people died trying to protect.
“We want to show that we are still behind them and that we haven’t forgotten.”
Through the quarterly meetings of the South San Joaquin County Republicans – of which Aquila is the president – he was able to get to know families like Julie and Scott Conover as well as Mike and Angela Anderson of Modesto that lost Marine Corporal Mike Anderson Jr., and have them featured as guest speakers to remind people about the importance of supporting military families and those who have paid the ultimate price for freedom.
As the Fleet Manager for Manteca Auto Plaza, Anderson – who lives in Modesto – spends a large portion of his time in Manteca, and has since become an advocate for Gold Star Families that works directly with representatives from the United States Marine Corps.
“People recognizing that sacrifice is something that’s very important to us,” Anderson said. “A lot of people, especially the families, will never forget – it’s something that they have to live with every day.
“We’re talking about people who volunteer to protect our freedoms and our liberties – they aren’t guaranteed – and a way to pay tribute and remember our fallen.”
And while Aquila isn’t one to keep his politics shielded very often, he made great strides to make sure that this event was something that was anything but politically motivated – even going so far as to schedule it a year later than it probably could have been held so that it didn’t coincide with the gravity of the last election.
“This is something that transcends the whole Republican/Democrat debate,” he said. “People can still come out and show support for these families regardless of their political affiliation.”
For Julie Conover – who will recognize what would have been son Brandon’s 24th birthday on the same night as the dinner – having the ability to network with other Gold Star Families that understand the emotions that go along with the loss has been the greatest asset.
“This is not like any other group out there,” Conover said. “This is the one group that you don’t ever want to be a part of, and if I break down in front of somebody like Mike or Angela I know that I don’t have to explain myself.”
Tickets for the dinner – which will consist of a combination of chicken and beef – are $50 per person. Active military personnel, Blue Star Families (those with family members in the military), and veterans can purchase tickets for $25 each. All Gold Star Families will be free.
All tickets must be reserved by Saturday, April 25, and can be purchased at First Assembly of God located at 486 Button Avenue, and the Main Street Café located at 1351 N. Main Street. FTM Mortgage located at 44 W. 10th Street in Tracy will also be selling tickets.
Those wishing to purchase tickets or make a donation via mail can send checks to: Frank Aquila, South San Joaquin Republicans, 1715 Widmer Lane, Manteca, CA 95336. For more information, contact Aquila at 825-0123.
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