Brock Elliott School Principal Debbie Ruger’s closing comments at the annual Brock Elliott Day ceremonies Friday were powerful words that she shared with the students and guests.
“Think about the freedoms that you enjoy because of these people,” she said.
She was referring to the 17 soldiers in the Manteca and Lathrop area who gave up their lives during the Vietnam War and all the men and women in uniform who are serving their country. One of those soldiers remembered was Brock Elliott, in whose honor the school was named. The Manteca High graduate and U.S. Marine Lance Corporal was killed in action in Vietnam. He was the first of the 17 area soldiers to die in the Vietnam War. He was 18 years old.
Among those who attended the ceremony were members of the fallen soldier’s family, as well as a former Manteca High schoolmate, veteran and American Legion Post 249-Manteca member Tom Ligett.
“I was three years ahead of him at Manteca High,” recalled Ligett who attended the observance with American Legion Commander Penny Wilson, Chaplain Art Averitt, and veteran Walt Peterson.
The school holds Brock Elliott Day every year as part of the Veterans Day ceremonies held all over.
“We are very proud of our heritage here at Brock Elliott,” the principal said in her opening remarks.
In honor of the 17 soldiers killed in Vietnam, and who are memorialized in the 17 flag-adorned plaques in front of the school, 17 selected students recited the name and rank of each of the fallen heroes as part of the morning program.
The rocks upon which the memorial plaques are placed, and which were dedicated at the opening of the school, were the handiwork of another Vietnam veteran, Jim Camper.
The featured speaker this year was Manteca Police Department canine officer Robert Anderson. A US Navy Petty Officer, Anderson served in the Navy prior to becoming a police officer, and served six tours in Iraq.
He was not the only military serviceman in his family. His father was a Navy SEAL who had two tours in the Vietnam War, and his uncle was a U.S. Marine pilot who was shot down twice by the enemy during the war in Vietnam. In fact, during one of those incidents, his father was part of the crew sent to rescue his uncle. His father “did not realize it was his brother” that he was trying to rescue, Anderson said.
Patriotic songs by the Brock Elliott Choir and band served as the music background for the occasion, with school band and choir director Melissa Manalastas directing. Manalastas also coordinated Friday’s event. The choir sang “We Will Not Forget,” while the band played Armed Forces March and American Patriot Salute numbers.
Brock Elliott School’s first graders led the Pledge of Allegiance, and seventh-grader led the singing of the National Anthem. The presentation of colors was led by the combined color guards of Manteca Unified’s high school JROTC units. The program, as has been part of this annual tradition, concluded with the presentation of bouquets to the members of the Brock Elliott family.