Families and friends of military personnel gathered in Windsor on Sunday to honor eight local heroes currently serving in the United States Armed Forces.
The eighth annual Hometown Heroes Military Banner Ceremony, held inside Windsor’s Huerta Gymnasium, recognized eight service members – Alexander Diener, Carlos Leonardo Guerrero, Aaron Hansen and Salvador Ledezma of the US Marine Corps and US Air Force’s Jack Adams, Brandon Cruz, Tyler Eggen and Katie Terra.
The ceremony also honored the late Stan Shusda, a founding member of the Windsor Hometown Heroes Military Banner Committee who orchestrated the banner’s inaugural ceremony, which took place on November 3, 2013.
A U.S. Navy veteran and community volunteer, Shusda has been recognized for his significant involvement with the veteran community and those who know him say he donated his own money to pay for the first banners.
He died on July 27 after a long illness, according to Windsor officials.
“Every year I feel more and more like these old gymnasium walls give us a sacred space for a little while and I’m so grateful to be a part of it,” said Jeannie Mitchell, committee member of the military banner of the heroes of the home town of Windsor. introduce the winners and their families.
A trio sang “God Bless America” to initiate Sunday’s ceremony, which was accented by embossed banners with photos of each of the honorees hung from lamp posts outside.
The families of the honorees walked a red carpet to enter the ceremony as a respectful silence filled the small hall of the gymnasium.
Mitchell announced each winner as they entered. As she described their origins, each person’s family members proudly rose from their chairs.
Ana Hansen, mother of US Marine Lance Cpl. Aaron Hansen, 20, stood outside with her husband and other families gathered before the ceremony.
Absent for more than two years, young Hansen, who works in the security forces, is stationed at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Marys, Georgia, according to his family.
“It’s an honor to be here,” said Ana Hansen, who added that she speaks weekly with her son. “He likes it, so we support him.”
Denisse Ledezma, mother of US Marine Cpl. Salvador Ledezma, 21, expressed his concerns, as well as his respect for his son’s pursuits in life.
“I wasn’t happy when he joined the army… I was scared, of course,” she said. “He loves the experience he is having and feels proud to be a Marine.”
Ledezma, a 2020 graduate of Windsor High School, is currently stationed at Camp Pendleton in Southern California, where he is a radio operator. He is preparing for his first deployment.
He expects to deploy to Asia soon, his mother said.
When he finishes his military service, he plans to pursue a degree in physical fitness and perhaps one day open his own gym.
“We are so incredibly proud of him,” his mother said.
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