A Tribute to Service: Clovis Veterans Luncheon at The Fountains

Dan Piro, manager of The Fountains at Alluvial, and Marine Veteran Ozzie Hernandez pose behind a patriotic frame during the Veteran’s Lunch at The Fountains at Alluvial (Photo by Steven Sandage, Clovis Roundup).

May 24, 2024 –  A sea of red, white, and blue adorned the recreation area at The Fountains at Alluvial on Thursday, where a special lunch was held to honor the community’s veteran residents. The event was a touching tribute, steeped in camaraderie and patriotism, reflecting the deep respect and gratitude felt for those who served.

As guests entered the main dining area, they were greeted by an array of photos, newspapers, and murals depicting the veterans’ journeys. Each table showcased cherished memories, with pictures of veteran residents proudly displayed. The meticulous decor, a testament to the efforts of the dedicated staff, set the tone for an afternoon of remembrance and celebration.

Dan Piro, now in his eighth year as manager of The Fountains at Alluvial, kicked off the event with warm introductions. “We do this for every event,” Piro said, underscoring the community’s commitment to honoring its residents. He highlighted the residents’ active participation in various charitable activities, including organizing food drives, collecting 8,000 bottles of water for the fire department, and donating essential items for victims of last year’s flooding in Planada. “These people are very giving,” he added.

Marine veteran Ozzie Hernandez, one of three brothers who served in the military, recounted his time in Vietnam, serving alongside his brother and fellow Marine veteran Pat Hernandez. “We served together for a little bit; that lasted for about a week,” Ozzie said, a rare occurrence in combat. When the military discovered their brotherly bond, “they immediately sent a helicopter out to where he was. They gave us a choice of who stays and who goes.” Ozzie chose to stay, reflecting on the decision, “That was my initial plan, and it worked.”

Francis John O’Neill, a 24-year Navy veteran who spent time on the USS America, USS Eisenhower, and USS Forrestal, reflected on the memorabilia displayed. He remarked, “This is neat, all this stuff. Oh boy, someone brought a sword.” The sword was graciously provided by Ozzie Hernandez. As someone thanked him for his service, O’Neill humbly responded, “Well, thank you,” his kind demeanor shining through.

The introduction of the veterans was a heartwarming moment. Duane Walker, a National Guard veteran, broke the ice with humor. “I lied to Dan about being a veteran so I could come to lunch,” he quipped, drawing laughter before revealing his 17 years of service.

Pat Hernandez added a poignant note during his introduction when speaking about his and Ozzie’s other brother who served in the National Guard and was deployed to the Watts riots right after boot camp. “For a lot of years, he felt he wasn’t a veteran. Basically, I told him, I don’t care if all you got is a papercut, if you bled with me, you’re my brother,” he said, emphasizing the enduring bonds formed in service.

The formal introductions concluded with a prayer, invoking the spirit of courage and righteousness, followed by an emotional rendition of “God Bless America.” The song brought tears to many eyes, encapsulating the heartfelt gratitude permeating the room.

As lunch commenced, the atmosphere was one of shared stories and fellowship. Veterans like Roy Cotton, a US Army veteran who humorously noted his role as a personnel clerk, saying, “My weapon was the typewriter,” mingled with others, each sharing their unique experiences and sacrifices.

The event at The Fountains at Alluvial was more than just a lunch; it was a moving tribute to those who served, a celebration of community, and a testament to the spirit of giving and remembrance that defines this special place. Here, amidst luxury and comfort, the veterans find not just a home but a family.