Pastor Mike Dillman has a goal.
He wants Manteca heralded in 2010 as being “the most patriotic city in America.”
“I don’t know if there is any organization that officially recognizes cities as such but that’s my goal,” Dillman said last week as the Manteca City Council honored his efforts to stage the regional Memorial Day observation that took place at Woodward Park and drew thousands from throughout Northern California.
Dillman has been the catalyst behind assembling small armies of volunteers – sometimes at a moment’s notice – to pay respect to those who have served America.
“Up until recently, Manteca was the only community in the country to have named a school after a Vietnam veteran,” Dillman said.
Dillman was referring to Brock Elliott School named for the Marine by the same name who was the first Mantecan to lose his life in the Vietnam War.
Among the events honoring those who have served America that Dillman has been involved in help organizing include:
•A homecoming for Manteca’s fallen in the Iraq War – Marine Cpl. Charles Palmer – that included over a thousand lining the streets of Manteca when he first returned home with a military escort. Then again on the day he was laid to rest 2,400 flags lined the streets of Manteca with more than 3,000 people along the motorcade.
•A welcome home celebration for a National Guard unit based out of Stockton with members from throughout Northern California. Again, 2,400 flags lined the streets along with thousands of people to welcome home the busloads of service personnel. Ina addition, The Place of Refuge – the church that Dillman serves as pastor – was the host location for two days of debriefing and family reunions for the soldiers.
•The establishment of an annual salute to veterans on Memorial Day weekend that is open to the public that has taken place at the Place of Refuge and has included several Medal of Honor recipients including former Manteca High student Sammy Davis.
•The creation of a traveling display with the names of all of those who have given their lives so far in the Global War on terrorism complete with photos of those from Northern San Joaquin County who have fallen.
•The establishment of a memorial and the naming of the plaza at Big League Dreams Sports complex for fallen her Charles Palmer Jr.