LITTLETON, Colo. — At a church in Littleton, an honor guard marches in with the American flag as bagpipes play "Amazing Grace." It is a day to honor a hero, one who sits on the stage smiling next to his daughter and granddaughter.
“This is my grandpa Gilbert Herrera,” Jodi Larson said with a smile. “He’s my hero.”
The gathering of people is to honor of the World War II veteran — a way to say thank you in person for his service.
“We’re here to honor exactly what he did for us, for our freedom, for our country,” Larson said.
Herrera volunteered for service when he was 18 years old, going on to fight in several European countries and liberate a concentration camp.
“We just hope it helps him realize that he is a hero to all of us and what he did was important,” Larson added.
The veteran and his family recently returned from an honor trip to Europe, revisiting several of the places he fought several decades earlier. Both the trip and the celebration in Littleton that followed were unexpected for the soft-spoken and humble Herrera.
“It’s wonderful because it brings back a lot of memories,” Herrera said on stage.
He was presented with a folded American flag, one that was flown over the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Afterward, he smiled through a few words.
“Unbelievable, really,” he said. “I didn’t expect anything like this.”
“We don’t want him to die without having ever felt that he was appreciated for the sacrifices he made,” Larson said.