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Lathrop speaker: Veterans from all walks of life
Veterans gather in front of Lathrops Memorial Wall. - photo by HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin

Master Sergeant Janet Graves knows a thing or two about sacrificing for service.
As the senior enlisted full-time manager of operations and training at Stockton’s 140th Aviation Regiment – a California National Guard unit that serves as a security and support battalion – Graves has had to miss holidays and family gatherings to perform the duties that go along with her sworn job.
So on Wednesday when Graves was honored as the keynote speaker at the City of Lathrop’s annual Veterans’ Day event, she was pointed in mentioning the things that veterans do without in order to serve their country, and noted how her idea of what a veteran truly changed after coming back from an overseas deployment.
“Veterans are our mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and aunts and friends and neighbors,” said Graves – dressed sharply in a black Army Class A uniform. “We honor our veterans for the sacrifices that they’ve made to secure our way of life, and we are thankful.”
Graves said that prior to joining the military – and even briefly after she was first deployed – she viewed veterans as older grandfather types. It took some time before she realized that veterans can come any walk of life, and more recently that has included young people, some of whom are returning back to society after spending their term fighting on battlefields in lands far from the one that they’re defending.
Mentioning that, according to event Vice Chairman Charles McGonegal, shined a light on the one thing that veterans groups have been grappling with every since young men and women that were deployed in combat situations or served honorably in support of those missions started coming back home.
Just her standing up at the lectern, McGonegal said, shows that veterans can come from any walk of life and are just as accepted as member of a group like the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars as anybody else.
“When it comes to something like this it’s great to see the turnout of people that come out and support the veterans for the work that they’ve done and the sacrifices that they’ve made,” McGonegal said. “It’s important to have events like this and when we have speakers like this that are younger it shows some of the younger veterans that they have a place that they can come and talk to people who have been through similar experiences.
“Basically we want all of the veterans to know that they’re supported. That’s the main thing.”
McGonegal is the Commander of American Legion Post 632.
The Veteran’s Day event, which lasted roughly an hour, included poems written by Lathrop residents Deborah Sala and McGonegal. The Lathrop Elementary School choir performed and Paul Gonzalves sang the national anthem – Lathrop High School JROTC cadets posted and retired the colors. Pastor Eric Baca of Lathrop’s Thrive Church gave the event invocation and Pastor Ed Kok of United Lutheran Church in Manteca delivered the benediction.
Event Chair Arnita Montiel said that she was thrilled so many people were in attendance and that seeing so much support only works to strengthen the support for veterans in the community.
“This is a community that is so loyal and so thankful – people that would walk miles to say thank you and show them how much they care,” Montiel said. “That really showed through today just like it does every year and on Memorial Day and this is something that is only going to attract more support moving forward.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.