Phil Waterford is grateful for the sacrifices the men and women who wear the military uniforms of this country make to secure our freedoms.
And given what those freedoms have allowed him and his family to enjoy, he provided Manteca Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6311 with a token of his heart-felt appreciation — their largest donation to date to the tune of $10,001.
The presentation was made at the post home during their weekly Taco Tuesday event.
At the same time Manteca Ford sales associate Eric James Jalli donated $1,000 so the post could purchase a deep fryer.
The largest donation ever to the VFW post is the latest of an ongoing commitment by Waterford to “thank those who have served.”
Waterford nine years ago admitted he rarely gave much thought to veterans let alone the military.
That changed when Pastor Mike Dillman asked Waterford to serve as the master of ceremonies at the Memorial Day Weekend Not Forgotten event at Woodward Park.
The day before the actual event he had the opportunity to attend a sit down dinner with Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and other veterans. Among those that the owner of Manteca Ford Mercury broke bread with that day was one of the surviving Navajo code talkers who played a critical role in World War II as well as Congressional Meal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis who attended Manteca High for three years. Several survivors of the Battle of the Bulge – the bloodiest battle in World War II – were also present.
Also on hand were several Vietnam veterans including Bob Gutierrez, Manteca resident Chris Braley who lost an eye and sustained head injuries in Iraq, and the parents of Manteca High graduate Charles Palmer who gave his life serving America in the Global War on Terror.
Waterford called Dillman early on the morning of the May 24 event. It awoke Dillman from a late spring slumber. Waterford said he wanted to talk. Dillman obliged waiting for Waterford to say more but then he asked if he could meet him at Woodward Park where the stage and other apparatus were in place for that day’s ceremonies. When Dillman arrived he found Waterford waiting.
What was about to unfold surprised Dillman.
Waterford said he was extremely moved by the men and their stories the day prior at the Prestige Senior Living dinner. Up until that dinner he never really had given much thought to the price of freedom or the blood that has been spilled to protect America.
Waterford told Dillman that Memorial Day to him has meant simply a three-day weekend off from work and a chance to hitch up the boat, gather up the family and head out to the lake.
He told Dillman he was going to “make up for a lifetime of indifference” when it came to honoring those who had served his country.
He then said he was going to give a new Ford Fusion to Manteca native and Vietnam War veteran Bob Gutierrez so he could make it back to Texas as his current car was on its last legs. He was also going to provide monetary gifts to several veterans as well as to several of the families that had lost so much.
Dillman, knowing how hard auto dealerships were being hit hard at the time and how they were struggling to stay in business and keep people employed, told Waterford to think about it a bit more as he really didn’t have to do what he was suggesting. He also emphasized that wasn’t the reason he’d asked Waterford – who has a track record of using his dealership to host free meals for the needy and to raise funds for the less fortunate – to serve as master of ceremonies.
Waterford looked at Dillman squarely in the eyes and said he wasn’t asking him for permission to make the gifts. Instead, he was letting him know that he was going to do it and if it was appropriate to do so that afternoon.
Since that late May day in Woodward Park, Waterford has continued to support veterans not just with donations but also to underwrite the second Manteca appearance of the Vietnam War Moving Wall.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org