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Veterans Engage The Community
American Veterans First members along with Big Valley Christian School students captured the moment with a photo during their field trip. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS
AVF Proprietor Duke Cooper with the help of a Big Valley Christian student demonstrated how to properly fold a flag. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

Last week was bustling for the non-profit organization American Veterans First (AVF) not only in Riverbank but Oakdale as well with a Star Party and a visit from Big Valley Christian school to their headquarters. The Star Party was held at the Oakdale Library in the evening on May 7 and the field trip was on May 8.

AVF along with supporters gathered at the Oakdale Library which CEO Duke Cooper expressed was a wonderful evening and a great showing of support. A few civilians and several veterans took time out of their lives to cut out stars from decommissioned flags. The stars will go into care packages that will be shipped out to service members that have been deployed. AVF has been bringing people and resources together since its inception in 2016.

Big Valley Christian teacher Ali Miller has made a field trip from Modesto to the AVF site in Riverbank three times bringing students and veterans together. However, it was the first time that she brought a group of high school students to visit AVF. The 11 students were from Miller’s English class that had been reading “Soldier’s Home” by Ernest Hemingway and doing research on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The students also wrote letters to to active service men and women, which will be included in the care package.

The students were given a presentation by veteran Rudy Molina regarding his service in the Marine Corps and the time he spent in the Vietnam War. He had pictures that he shared with the students and showed them the newly released book about his life called “The 13 Unsung Heroes: The Untold Story.”

Veteran John Hinkel shared some stories with the juniors about his youth, joining the Marine Corps, and currently attending UOP to complete his degree.

The students were asked a few questions by the vets and WWII veteran Alan Taylor that shared a story about his experience in the Navy. Miller expressed how amazing it was for the students to meet a WWII veteran, an opportunity they may never have received otherwise.

Cooper, along with a Big Valley student, demonstrated how to properly fold an American Flag. The students watched as Old Glory was folded and listened to Cooper as he shared the rules regarding the flag. He also informed the students on what the organization does and who they have helped as well as some upcoming events like the Not Forgotten Classic Car and Motorcycle show on Saturday, May 25 at 9 a.m. remembering fallen veterans.

The students related well to Cooper and the other veterans and even took some time to chat after the presentations.