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Portola post office dedicated to fallen soldier

6/9/2010

Diana Jorgenson

Portola Editor

A crowd gathered under an overcast sky June 3 to witness the renaming of Portola's post office as the Jeremiah Paul McCleery Post Office in honor of the young man's death May 2, 2009, at a combat outpost in Hamman Alil, Iraq. McCleery was a 2004 graduate of Portola High School.

Congressman Tom McClintock, representing California's 4th District, introduced legislation to rename the post office in McCleery's honor, which was signed into law in January of this year.

In addition, the McCleery family donated a park bench to the post office in Jeremiah's memory. Jeremiah's father, Joe McCleery, sisters Lynette and Chastity, and other members of the family attended to honor their son and brother's sacrifice in war.

Several postmasters, Jerry DePaoli, manager of post office operations and Portola employees, Benay McGarr, Linda Marshall, Patti Hubiak, Wendy Bonnett and retired employee Dude Berry, joined Portola's Postmaster Terry James in welcoming the public to the ceremony.

The Portola Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion formed an honor guard under Commander Troy Biggs, followed by the national anthem sung by Loyalton first-grader Sadie Gavin and a prayer by Pastor Dennis Black of Portola Station Baptist Church.

After remembering McCleery as his former student, Mayor John Larrieu introduced McClintock, who gave the dedication speech in remembrance of McCleery's short life.

McClintock began by telling the audience their presence was eloquent testimony to the community's pride at being McCleery's hometown and commended them for the support they extended to the family in their supreme loss.

It has been 13 months since Jeremiah died, McClintock said and added, "The sacrifice he made will always be remembered by his country and his community."

He related several stories about McCleery, a boy who loved to spend time with his father, stood up to bullies and stayed with his mother until she died, before enlisting in the Army, which was a longtime dream for him.

"He was an exemplary soldier who commanded the friendship and respect of his colleagues. At Fort Hood, he became close friends with another Californian, Jake Velloza. They shipped out on a tour of duty together," McClintock said.

And they died together. Although there were several wounded in the combat May 2, only Jeremiah and Jake lost their lives. Jake's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Velloza of Inverness, attended the ceremony and were also honored for their son's sacrifice.

"When asked why they are there, the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier say it is to demonstrate that they will never forget," McClintock said, "and renaming this post office is so that we will never forget as well."

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