Dimos Birakos received a hero’s welcome on Monday.
The physical education teacher at Sierra High had spent 202 days in Qatar with the U.S. Air Force, returning to campus for the morning session.
“I was surprised,” said Birakos of the drive-thru welcome parade held in his honor organized by the SHS Leadership class under the director of advisor Jared Rio.
His group touched base with Birakos’ wife, Allison Birakos – she’s the Student Activities Director and Business teacher at Lathrop High – on trying to keep the event held in the school parking lot as much of a secret as possible.
That meant knowing what social media is used by Dimos Birakos, opting for the other online sources to get the word out.
He made his way to the parking lot, entering through the large inflatable mascot tunnel often associated with the Timberwolves during football season.
“I thought maybe I could sneak out through a side door,” said Birakos of the special gathering.
He was in active service to the 129th Rescue Wing of the National Guard in the Bay Area prior to his deployment to the Middle East.
The mission of the 129th is to train and prepare to perform wartime search and rescue anywhere in the world, including distressed persons aboard ships, lost or injured hikers and medical evacuations.
Dimos Birakos’s services outside the classroom was applauded by Manteca Unified School District Superintendent Clark Burke.
“He’s what MUSD is about,” said Burke, who is a Field Grade U.S. Army Officer.
Burke along with school board Trustee Marie Freitas, SHS Principal Steve Clark, Assistant Principal Anthony Chapman, and vice principals Ann Marie Shaw and Andrew Lee, were among the notables in attendance.
The drive-thru parade included students and their families.
Other familiar faces were Charles and Teri Palmer, parents of the late USMC Charles O. Palmer II. They spearhead the Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II Memorial Troop Support Program, working with groups including the SHS Leadership class to collect donations for care packages for the troops stationed abroad.
Along those lines, SHS organized Operation Birakos last spring. “We collected tons of supplies to send to his unit overseas,” Rio said.