Chuck Palmer is on a mission.
He wants to make sure that Marine Lance Cpl. Ronnie Porta knows just how much his service to his country in the Global War on Terror means to Mantecans.
Porta has spent the last 54 months undergoing 130 surgeries after the Humvee he was driving was blown up by an improvised explosive device In Iraq. Two of his fellow Marines – Master Sergeant Kenneth Mack and Palmer’s son and Manteca High graduate Lance Corporal Charles Palmer – perished in the inferno. Porta startled other Marines on the scene - who couldn’t get closer than 20 feet to the Humvee due to the intensity of the fire - when he walked out of the wall of flames. Some 90 percent of his body sustained severe burns.
Porta is flying into Stockton Metro Airport next Saturday for a two-day visit with the parents of his fellow Marine that served and died beside him in war.
Palmer is not alone in his mission. He has been contacted by numerous veterans groups that want to be on hand at noon on Jan. 14 when Porta will be flying in from San Antonio, Texas. They plan to present colors and show their respect for Porta and his service to the country. The Marine reserves from Sharpe Depot will also be on hand.
The Manteca Chamber of Commerce is also rounding up volunteers to make sure that all 2,400 flags line Yosemite Avenue and Main Street next Saturday.
“It is the very least that we can do as a community to show our appreciation for this brave young man,” said Debby Moorhead who serves as the chief executive officer of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce. “It doesn’t matter where he is from. He served our country and he has paid a big price for our freedoms.”
The chamber placed flags out to welcome the 118th National Guard unit back to California several years ago even though none of the soldiers were from Manteca. In addition to the flags, more than 4,000 people - including school children - lined the streets of Manteca to welcome the soldiers back.
The flags were out also when Charles Palmer was brought home to be laid to rest following his death in combat on May 5, 2007. More than 7,000 people paid their respects along the funeral route.
Porta is on a mission as well. One of the first things he wanted to do after he was given clearance to travel was to meet the parents of his comrade who died beside him in battle.
“It’s incredibly brave of him to fly all this way,” Palmer said. “He’s waged an incredible fight to stay alive.”
Porta is engaged to be married this month and has a son on the way. He expects to be discharged from the Marines by March with his final - and 131st surgery - coming in May.
Palmer said he hopes people don’t forget those who have served whether it is Porta and others who were injured, those who came back without physical scars as well as those who have died.
He said as the wars wind down it is getting more and more difficult to secure donations to ship in cave packages to those in harm’s way who are serving America.
Palmer along with his wife Teri started a troop support program in honor of their son. Information is available at www.cplpalmertroopssupport.com
If you would like to help welcome Porta and would like additional information e-mail CHUCKLESPAL@aol.com or call Palmer at (209) 627-5147.