Merced Honors Veterans

November 12, 2009 12:36:05 AM PST
Tributes to honor the valley's Veterans continued into the night Wednesday, as friends of a Merced soldier killed in Iraq gathered to honor him with a candlelight vigil at Bob Carpenter Park. Private First Class Lukas Hopper died last month in Iraq with just nine months left on his deployment. "It was just important for me to come out and honor our military on a day that is supposed to be set aside for them. It started as something for Luke and then it just became so much bigger," said Hopper's friend Kelie Hein. The vigil wrapped up a day of events honoring Merced's Veterans. A large crowd gathered at the Courthouse Park Veterans Memorial to pay tribute to Veterans who served in the past and those who are serving now. Many Veterans are hoping the day's ceremonies will make a lasting impression. "I just want them to remember freedom isn't free," said Vietnam Veteran Ronald Grisby.

Thousands also lined the streets of downtown Merced for a parade earlier in the day. Though Veteran's Day is a day for all who have served, those who have made the ultimate sacrifice are on the top of many minds.

Back at Bob Carpenter Park, Lukas Hopper's friends and community members said it was important to show his family support. "Lukas was a hometown boy and I feel like he was all of our sons," said Sharon Baker of Merced.

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