The Ukrop’s Family Gathering has been an annual tradition for more than 50 years, bringing company associates and their families together for a day of picnic food, fun and fellowship. This event will not soon be forgotten, thanks to a visit from a U.S. serviceman who surprised his family and created a lasting memory for all those in attendance.
This was not Air Force Airman 1st Class Vicente Mendoza’s first Family Gathering. In fact, he won the pie-eating contest in 2011 and his sister won the same contest in 2012! Vicente’s father, Bonfilio, has been a Ukrop’s associate for 19 years. He and his family planned to attend the Family Gathering again this year, although without Vicente (or so they thought!), who has been in basic training in Texas prior to embarking on a two- year tour of duty in Japan in about two weeks.
Vicente arranged an early arrival home and was a surprise special guest at the Family Gathering. His parents, sister and brother were all dockside as Vicente arrived on a pontoon boat. The family stood in amazement as they quickly realized it was their son and brother carrying the American flag on board as Toby Keith’s “American Soldier” played over the loudspeaker!
After a warm welcome complete with lots of hugs and tears, Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” was played, a special request from Vicente dedicated to his father. It was an emotional reunion for the family and a particularly touching tribute to Bonfilio leading up to Father’s Day. The song includes the following lyrics, which certainly reflects how many sons and daughters feel about their father:
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up… To more than I can be.
Thank you Mendoza family and Happy Father’s Day!